News Header Images
Whakatane District Council Chief Executive appointment announced
24 September 2018
Whakatane District Council Chief Executive appointment announced
Whakatāne District Mayor Tony Bonne has announced that Stephanie O’Sullivan has been appointed Chief Executive of the Whakatāne District Council. Ms O'Sullivan will take up her new role on 19 November.
"Stephanie knows our area very well. She has worked here in the past, has family connections in Whakatāne and brings a unique governance and senior management skillset to the organisation," he says. "Council elected members are delighted to have employed a leader who will maintain the Council's momentum and continue to build collaborative partnerships and an increasingly prosperous and resilient community."
Ms O'Sullivan says she is thrilled to have the opportunity to contribute to achieving the Council's vision. "Whakatāne's climate, relaxed lifestyle, natural assets and strong cultural heritage and history provide a wonderful context to work within. I believe the District is poised for strong growth, post-settlement iwi investment, and will also benefit from the 'halo effect' of economic development opportunities in the wider eastern Bay of Plenty," she says. "These are exciting times and I feel privileged to be able to play a leadership role in shaping and facilitating the opportunities before us."
A Bachelor of Resource and Environmental Planning (Hons) graduate from Massey University, Ms O'Sullivan's most recent career highlights include her current role as the BoP Senior Advisor for the Government's Provincial Growth Fund, and prior to that, serving as a Treaty Settlement Negotiator for Raukawa iwi in the Waikato, and CEO of Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Ranginui. Stephanie has also held numerous governance roles, including the Waikato River Authority, Tauranga People's Project and Chairing the Advisory Board for the University of Waikato Adams High Performance Centre in Mount Maunganui.
"My background has given me valuable insight into the challenges, opportunities and partnership potential between local and central Government, iwi, the private sector and the community. I'm fortunate to have experienced leadership roles in pre- and post-settlement iwi entities, and to have championed environmentally sustainable community and economic development, both as a public servant and a non-government organisation leader. That gives me the ability to place myself in others’ shoes and I believe that will be tremendously helpful as the Council works to meet its challenges over the next 5-10 years."
Stephanie worked for Te Puni Kōkiri in Whakatāne in the late-1990s and has a sister, two nephews and many friends here.  Her husband Goran Surucic is a high school teacher and originates from Croatia.  She says that their family, which includes Goran’s mother, who has settled here from Croatia, and Monty their miniature schnauzer, are very supportive of this opportunity. 
She describes herself as a “tangata tiriti New Zealander” – a person of non-Māori origin, whose forbears came here to enjoy the opportunities Aotearoa presents – and says she has been privileged to be immersed in the world of tangata whenua for more than 20 years. Raised in a farming family in the South Waikato region, Ms O’Sullivan shares her story of being ‘adopted’, or being a whangai of senior kaumatua Hori Deane, of the Ngāti Ahuru hapu and Ngatira Marae, near Putaruru. Ngāti Ahuru has a strong connection to Ngāi Tūhoe. 
“I've lived a life of cultural richness, and have had the opportunity to walk in two worlds," she concludes. "I feel a real connection to the Whakatāne District and I'm looking forward to listening, learning and gaining a solid understanding of the area, so that I can play my part in bringing the Council’s vision to life."