We sat down with our Programme Director Sarah Gardner to learn more about her experience and her life outside of work.
Sarah was born in Wellington, and while she spent most of her childhood and early adult years away, she came home to raise her two daughters with her husband in 2009. Sarah trained as a Planner at Massey University, has a diploma in Local Government Administration and is a qualified company director. She has worked in local government, central government and in Australia in both New South Wales for the State Government and Queensland for the Gold Coast City Council.
All of her work has been in the environmental space, and over the past 12 years Sarah has been in executive leadership roles in New Zealand and Australia. This included working on the Roads of National Significance Projects for the EPA, such as Transmission Gully, and managing contaminated land and waste for the New South Wales EPA.
Most recently, Sarah was the Chief Executive of the Otago Regional Council for 4.5 years. Part of her role was leading regional transport planning and public transport service provisioning for Otago.
A chat with Sarah:
What gets you up in the morning?
The first thing is my two Labradors, especially on the weekend when I’d rather be sleeping! I’m also really motivated by doing work that makes a difference. This is a huge opportunity to make a difference, not just today but for future generations.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
In my spare time, I love playing or doing activities with the dogs. I also love interior design, gardening and cooking. I don’t love cleaning! I enjoy spending time with family, and I love watching sport – particularly rugby and the recent Commonwealth Games. I got really into the cycling and lawn bowls, and we enjoyed them as a family! I also enjoy exploring new places and getting out and finding out different things about the city with my husband and daughters.
How do you unwind at the end of a busy day?
I love putting on some good music on the way home. When I get home, the first bit of my time is dedicated to the dogs. It’s so nice because they are so excited. I find cooking quite relaxing, so that’s nice at the end of the day. My signature dish is pork belly with roast potatoes and apple slaw. That’s the one everyone always asks for on special occasions!
What's your favourite place you’ve been to and why?
The upper reaches of the Rangitikei River, just north of Taihape. It’s just beautiful. I’ve seen trout sunbathing in a pool in that river.
What do you love most about Wellington?
Everyone says this, but you simply can’t beat Wellington on a good day! I love Wellington when it’s sunny and still; it’s like everyone comes out of hibernation. The city fills up and there’s such a vibrancy around. I love that feeling of community you get from Wellington on those days.
What does your ideal Wellington look like?
My ideal Wellington is accessible for everyone, where it’s easy to get around. It would be great to see Wellington leading as a city that grows up around good, accessible transport, whether that’s active modes or public transport. I want it to be easy, where anyone can access public transport and you don’t have to think about it too much; where everything turns up when it's supposed to, and it’s reliable, comfortable and purpose-built.
What are you most excited about for Wellington’s future?
I’m excited about the role that good public transport and active modes of transport can play in the future of the city. I think that having an alternative to taking the car creates experiences and memories for people. I’m really excited for the new things people might find out about the city or the new opportunities that it will bring, such as growing neighbourhoods and a sense of community. Just imagine how the central city would feel if it was safe and vibrant 24/7!
What made you want to work at Let’s Get Wellington Moving?
For me, it’s about making a difference. I love being in positions where I can contribute to communities. This is a massive opportunity to shape the future of our capital city. I know Wellington is a great city. It’s already cool and vibrant and got great bones. We have an opportunity to make sure Wellington continues to be a fantastic place to live, for people to be able to live close to where they work, to be able to access all the city has to offer with relative ease, and to build a sense of community in places where previously the car was dominant.
What do you enjoy about the work you do at Let’s Get Wellington Moving?
I really enjoy the people. I enjoy the passion of the team, their expertise and the fact that we’re all on the same page. Everyone values working for the city, country and community. I also really value the opportunities to bring a Māori perspective as well, and to make sure we’re working with Mana Whenua. That creates a richness and level of aspiration that we can all strive towards
If you could meet anyone in the world (alive or not) who would it be, and why?
I had the pleasure of meeting John Kirwan recently, and I really enjoyed that. Not only because I like rugby, but also because of the fantastic work he’s done around mental health, and his openness and passion for that work. Those kinds of inspirational leaders are amazing, and they give you a sense of what’s possible.