Rachel Reese JP


Nelson City Councillor 2007 - 2013 Deputy Mayor 2007 - 2010 Mayor Nelson City 2013 - 2022

Jenny Rowan, the former Mayor of Kapiti, was the first person that suggested my future might be in local government. She wasn't the Mayor at the time, but an Environment Court Commissioner, and I was representing local environmental groups in a Court appeal. I guess she could see my passion for community leadership and my desire to change the vision for Te Tau Ihu. 

Rachel Reese
Rachel Reese Deputy Mayor of Nelson 2007 - 2013; Mayor of Nelson 2013 -

I stood on a ticket in 2007 with a group of others who wanted change. We'd never really discussed politics; we just knew that our region was missing opportunities to thrive. Then an election came around and we agreed local government could make a difference. So we gave it a shot.

I have two thoughts on that decision. The first is I should NEVER have said "Yes I'll stand." My life would have been simpler, healthier, and financially, more wealthy. The alternative thinking is that I started the journey to the most demanding but most rewarding role that exists in any community and the only answer was "YES - this is for me".

In my first term I was appointed Deputy Mayor and I had to learn a lot very fast. It was a role I absolutely relished and I learned to trust my instincts and ability. There is a freedom in this role that doesn't exist in the Mayor's role, but equally it is a support role. Done well, you support the vision and the strategy, but you look to the Mayor to create the direction and pace.

In the end creating the direction was what called me to take the next step. I wanted to be Mayor - to build a future for Whakatu. The challenge for me has always been the cut and thrust of hard politics. From time to time it can be very personal and actually quite nasty. I'll never overcome my abhorrent dislike of that reality, but I get my satisfaction out of focusing on the people and the purpose that I serve.

I share in the best and worst, the greatest joy and the worst sorrow. I talk with people at the bottom of life's ladder and the top, days include the business-as-usual grind, some very complex problems and the most exciting opportunities.

This was published in: Women Decision-Makers Nelson and Tasman 1944 -2018, p.44. Compiled by Dr Shelley Richardson, Elaine Henry, Gail Collingwood, Hilary Mitchell.

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Further sources - Rachel Reese JP


  • Richardson, S., Henry, E., Collingwood, G. Mitchell, H. (2018). Women decision-makers Nelson and Tasman 1944-2018. Nelson, New Zealand