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Te Waka announces new executive appointments

Te Waka, Waikato’s regional economic development agency, has announced the appointment of a new chief executive officer and chief operating officer.

Michael Bassett-Foss is Te Waka’s chief executive officer and Harvey Brookes is its chief operating officer.

The announcement comes almost a week after the agency held its first economic development summit and announced its official name, Te Waka: Anga whakamua Waikato (Waikato moving forward).

Michael Bassett-Foss grew up in Hamilton and has spent the past 17 years in Napier with his wife and three teenage children.

He was most recently project director of the multimillion dollar Water Wairarapa project, is the former chair of Economic Development Associations of New Zealand (EDANZ) and was manager of economic development at Hawke’s Bay Regional Council where he led the development of Hawke’s Bay’s Regional Economic Development Strategy.

Te Waka establishment board chair Dallas Fisher says Bassett-Foss’ knowledge and experience at the governance, community and major project leadership level made him the natural choice for the CEO role.

“It’s the combination of these skills which Te Waka will need to translate its ambition into reality and to lead the Waikato region forward,” he says. “We are excited to have a leader of Michael’s calibre to head the new organisation.”

Harvey Brookes was born in Putaruru and raised in Morrinsville, and now splits his time between Cambridge and Auckland, where he runs an economic development consultancy. He has had an extensive career in economic development and public policy at both regional and national levels, including as manager of economic development at Auckland Council.

He has overseen the establishment of Te Waka and since 2015 has been the programme manager for its forerunner, Waikato Means Business.

Fisher says Brookes’ experience and contacts in the Waikato region, along with his detailed knowledge of how Te Waka will work, made him the front runner for chief operating officer.

“We are delighted Harvey has accepted the role and I know he will be part of a formidable team alongside Michael and the board.”

Fisher also acknowledged the work of Te Waka’s interim CEO, Stuart Gordon, who will continue to run Waikato Innovation Park and the Food Innovation (Waikato) spray drier. 

“Stuart has ensured a very seamless establishment process and a transition to the new organisation. We’re very grateful for the leadership and support he and the Park have provided and look forward to continuing to work in partnership with him and his team moving forward.”

Bassett-Foss and Brookes will start in their new roles this month and work alongside Te Waka’s board and stakeholders to take the results of last week’s economic development summit to build an economic development action programme for the region. This will be presented to the region and Minister for Regional Economic Development later in the year.