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O’Keefe loving ambassador role as community connector

Henare My Hastings 2023

Henare O’Keefe is hitting his stride as the Hastings Ambassador, six months on from stepping down as Flaxmere ward councillor.

The role, which he started in 2017 as part of his duties as councillor, focuses on building pride in Hastings district, and Mr O’Keefe is proud to be in the role.

“It’s a fabulous role and I love it, I love my job. I get to meet people from all round the community and be a bridge, a connector between council and the community,” says Mr O’Keefe.

The last month has been hard, seeing damaged homes and infrastructure and the impact on the community, he says.

“The cyclone was full on. It was difficult to see so many people going through hard times, but being able to listen and comfort them made a difference. Seeing the community step up to support each other was inspiring.”

In his role, Mr O’Keefe represents and promotes Hastings at both council and externally run events, spreading the message: ‘Be loud and proud; you live in Hastings!’

“I’m humbled that I was chosen for Ambassador of Hastings where I see relationships being the currency of the role, and I appreciate the opportunity to work for my community and with them.”

Since starting the role, he says there’s been many highlights, including getting to meet the wonderful people of Hastings.

“An audience, no matter how big or small, is a highlight for me. If I’m making them laugh as MC, or get a whole crowd to stand up and join in waiata, it’s amazing.

“I love MCing our citizenship ceremonies where we get to celebrate people getting their citizenship. I make a real effort to show how much we in Hastings and wider Aotearoa welcome and value our new citizens and I dress up to the nines with my tuxedo, act as MC, put people at ease, and – so important to me - I always take care to pronounce names of our new citizens correctly.”

For the future, he is looking to make the role sustainable.

“Being a councillor had already laid the groundwork for relationships that I’m building and the role itself, and now I want to do the mahi to get it ready for someone in the future to take it on. I see part of my role as preparing the ground for the next person so the role can continue.”

Hastings mayor Sandra Hazlehurst says council is proud to have a Hastings Ambassador who generates a lot of love and community pride.

“Henare’s passion and heartfelt love for the community and area make him a brilliant fit for the role and a great Ambassador for council. And he wears fabulous shirts!”

31 March 2023

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