Profile – Deborah Stites

Deborah Stites is widely known in the Helensville/Kaukapakapa/Makarau area for producing the monthly Kaukapakapa Kourier, a newsletter which has been a valued community voice for 19 years. Living in Makarau on her two acres with a couple of dogs and several chooks, Deborah enjoys the space, the air and the starscape that come with a rural life, doing her own DIY (she’s just completed laying a recycled heart matai floor), living a non-consumer and green life (“because that way you’re lighter on the planet”), growing a productive garden and following a spiritual path of her own devising.
While she’s been in the area for some time, Deborah is not a born-and-bred local, having grown up in central Auckland. After attending Auckland Girls Grammar, she gained her Masters’ degree in English and German then, after a year at Auckland Teachers College, spent seven years teaching English and French at James Cook High School in South Auckland. Overseas travel to the UK and Greece was followed by the move into corporate life when Deborah joined National Mutual to become manager of the first division of women insurance agents in Australasia, later joining NZI Life and becoming its national training manager. “It’s just as well I was a stroppy feminist in those days,” says Deborah, “because while teaching was egalitarian the insurance industry was very different, so I had to be quite forceful to seen as a person rather than an underling.”
After the 1987 crash Deborah was among the 1200 people NZI made redundant – for her in 1990 - but, while the financial collapse was a shock, she quickly found a new career as a business consultant. Working from home she enjoyed the freedom of self-employment and honed her skills with projects like running business training courses. Her next move was into tertiary teaching, firstly at Northland Polytech’s Orewa campus, then with Private Training Establishments (PTEs) in the city. “I loved that work. The students were very open to education and I learned a lot in the 12 years I was in the PTE system, including the time I spent as an acting Head of Business School. Alongside that I’d also been teaching courses like professional and e-business writing, management, business communication and media skills at Massey University in Albany. I eventually opted to focus on that and I still work there.”
In the 21 years Deborah has lived in Makarau she’s been an active member of the community. She was Chair of KARRA at a time when the battles to be fought included lobbying Rodney District Council to prevent a lake being built on the flood plain in the centre of Kaukapakapa for speedboat sports. “The lake would have caused a lot of ecological problems when it flooded,” says Deborah. “It would have brought people to the area but they wouldn’t have spent money here because they would have had their own facilities on site. Kaukapakapa would have just got the noise.” Another fight occurred when the Rodney District Council wanted to pipe sewerage from the Hibiscus Coast to a holding plain in Kaukapakapa then discharge it into the Kaipara “because it wasn’t a tourist centre.” KARRA won that one too.
It was while she was on KARRA that Deborah began the newsletter that eventually evolved into an independent publication.  “People send me stuff, I get to meet lots of lovely people, I go to local events and have conversations with people in the community who are doing great things.  Then I put it all together and send it through to wonderful Anita at Helensville Copy & Print who makes it all fit.  It’s what I love to do, and to a shy person it is a Godsend.”

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