Meet our speakers

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Stephen Willis profile picture University of Otago

Stephen Willis

Chief Operating Officer,
University of Otago

University of Otago logo

Stephen has been the Chief Operating Officer (COO) for the University of Otago since April 2016.

As the Chief Operating Officer Stephen provides strategic leadership, planning and management across the University’s property, operational, transactional and infrastructure functions. This includes responsibility for the Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin and Southland Campuses of the University of Otago.

Stephen leads a team responsible for a wide range of services and infrastructure. These include Campus and Collegiate Life, Residential Colleges, Information Technology Services, Property Services, Campus Development, Sustainability, Enterprise Portfolio Management Office, Risk, Assurance and Compliance, Health and Safety, the Enabling Excellence Programme and the University’s new Shared Services which incorporates HR, Finance, Student Experience, Purchasing, Administration, IT and AV functions). Student Services The capital programme Stephen’s portfolio is responsible for is circa $1Billon NZ over a 10 year period.

Prior to New Zealand, Stephen had a long history with Mater Health Services Brisbane – one of Australia’s largest, oldest and most esteemed health care companies – a privately owned and operated not-for-profit organisation providing healthcare, research and education services. During his tenure he delivered the largest capital program in the organisation’s history and some of its most strategic projects and was responsible for the a range of diverse departments and services that supported and provided amenity and security for the 7 hospitals, 7,000 plus staff and millions of visitors each year. This involved a $1.3 Billion+ property and asset portfolio over several campuses, a major capital works program of several hundred million dollars and all the ancillary businesses and services typical of major hospital campuses.

In 2018, Stephen was appointed by the Joint Ministers of Health and Finance to the Southern Partnership Group, which is the board that provides oversight of the New Dunedin Hospital Redevelopment Project – NZ’s largest, most complex and most expensive construction project.

Prior to making a move into the world of operations management, capital works, property & support services Stephen spent several years working in a number of positions as a Clinical Project Officer, Hospital Nurse Manager and Registered Nurse throughout Australia and overseas, and prior to that served in the Australian Army.

Stephen holds a Master’s Degree in Project Management, a Master’s Degree in Health Science majoring in Health Service Management, an Advanced Diploma in Project Management and a Bachelor of Nursing with Distinction.

In 2013 Stephen was awarded a Commendation Award in Business and Law from the University of Southern Queensland and in 2002 was nominated by QUT and subsequently awarded the Ian Brand Prize from the Australian College of Health Service Executives for achieving the highest grade point average (GPA) in a Masters of Health Services Management in Australia.

Stephen is a Member of the Institute of Directors New Zealand and the Australian Institute of Project Management (AIPM).

Megan Gibbons profile image Otago Polytechnic

Megan Gibbons

Deputy Chief Executive for People and Performance,
Otago Polytechnic

Otago Polytechnic logo

Megan is the Deputy Chief Executive for People and Performance at Otago Polytechnic.  Otago Polytechnic’s Sustainability strategy is a key part of her executive portfolio. Megan has a strong academic background having previously been the Head of College of Te Ohu Ora and completed a PhD in Biomedical Sciences. In 2019 she was also named an Associate Professor at Otago Polytechnic and has previously been the recipient of a National Award in Excellence in Tertiary Teaching.

Megan has a strong interest in both sustainability and kaitiakitaka, working as a trustee for the Wildlife Hospital, leading the sustainability strategic plan for Otago Polytechnic and leading the Otago Polytechnic representation for a United Nations Regional Centre of Expertise in Sustainability.  Her strengths are in working with people to create and achieve shared outcomes.  Megan works with a number of organisations and has an underlying philosophy that we should provide opportunities for all to participate in exercise as it is good for general health and wellbeing.

Ron Bull profile image Otago Polytechnic

Ron Bull

Director of Learning and Teaching (Maori),
Otago Polytechnic

Otago Polytechnic logo

Ron Bull is the Tumuaki Whakaako, Director of Learning and Teaching (Maori) at Otago Polytechnic. His whakapapa is strongly embedded in the South and his ancestors were the first to traverse and inhabit this part of New Zealand. His role includes overseeing the articulation of Indigenous knowledge and practice into the learning environment.  This is done by way of embedding local Iwi Maori environmental and social narrative into our built environment.

Vanessa Carswell profile image

Vanessa Carswell

Warren and Mahoney Architects

Warren and Mahoney Architects logo

Vanessa Carswell is a Principal at Warren and Mahoney Architects and has led the design team for the masterplan of Otago Polytechnic’s Dunedin campus.  Vanessa enjoys leading and partaking in collaborative processes for the design of complex projects. Her experience in NZ and the UK has often involved working with multi-headed stakeholder groups, environmentally sustainable design, and heritage restorations.

Samual Mann profile image Otago Polytechnic

Samuel Mann

Otago Polytechnic

Otago Polytechnic logo
Professor Samuel Mann teaches for Capable NZ – Otago Polytechnic’s school specialising in professional practice and work-based learning. Sam was responsible for the development of Education for Sustainability at Otago Polytechnic where they are committed to every graduate thinking and acting as a sustainable practitioner. Sam’s 2011 book “The Green Graduate”, subtitled “Educating Every Student as a Sustainable Practitioner”, sets out a framework for integrating sustainability into every course of study. His subsequent book “Sustainable Lens: a visual guide” explores the visual narrative of sustainability. This book proposes a “sustainable lens”: to act sustainably we need to first “see” sustainably. Sam has a weekly radio show and podcast where he and a colleague have conversations with people from many different fields who are applying their skills to a sustainable future. In these conversations, they try to find out what motivates their guest and what it means to see the world through a sustainable perspective. This research archive now has more than 300 interviews. Recent work focusses on the development of a Transformation Mindset.
Sam gained his PhD from the University of Otago in 1998 titled “Spatial Process Modelling for Regional Environmental Decision Making”. Previously he had completed an MSc and a BSc (Hons) in Geography. He has also completed a postgraduate certificate in Tertiary Learning and Teaching.

Sam previously taught software engineering, interaction design, project management and innovation. For five years he was Head of the former School of Information Technology. Sam is active nationally within CITRENZ, and internationally within sustainable computing (ICT4S and HCI4S).

At Capable Sam is a mentor and facilitator, focussing on post-graduate programs, and undergraduate computing and sustainability. Sam is the Programme Director for the SIGNAL ICT Grad School’s postgraduate programs. He led the development of the Doctor of Professional Practice and Bachelor of Leadership for Change programs.

Publications and Research

Mann, S., Bates, O., Forsyth, G., Osborne, P. (2018) Regenerative Computing: De-limiting hope. Limits 2018: Fourth Workshop on Computing within Limits, 13-14 May, Toronto, Canada.

Scott Willis profile image BRCT

Scott Willis

Blueskin Resilient Communities Trust

BRCT logo

As Manager of the Blueskin Resilient Communities Trust I oversee Trust operations and I am passionate about community, collaborative effort and confronting the great challenge of climate change. I am also Chair of the Energy Committee at the Otago Chamber of Commerce and serve as a Trustee on the Cosy Homes Charitable Trust.

I was born in Dunedin and my family has extensive roots from the Gold Rush of 1862 when my great great grandparents Andrew and Margaret Young settled in Roxburgh, and later my great grandparents Hendra with their Dunedin foundry. I have lived in Blueskin Bay where we have raised our family over the past 20+ years. In 2019 I am proud to have been endorsed by the Dunedin Branch of the Green Party to stand as the official Green Party candidate for the Otago Regional Council in the October local body elections.

Blueskin Resilient Communities Trust

Blueskin’s largest settlement Waitati was heavily flooded in April 2006. In September 2006 a community visioning exercise kicked off a community wide strategic thinking exercise, and the Waitati Edible Gardeners group (the Weggies) was set up. In 2007, the Blueskin Energy Project (first called the ‘Waitati Energy Project’) was established, and on the 1st of October 2008 the Blueskin Resilient Communities Trust was launched.

Our vision:
We will facilitate a positive, healthy, secure and resilient future for Blueskin Bay and linked communities and promote sustainable resource use.

Our mission:
The Trust will act to strengthen our communities in the immediate, mid and long-term future, with emphasis on energy, food, water and community resilience.

Hoani Langsbury profile image

Hoani Langsbury

Manager of Operations Taiaroa Head,
Otago Peninsula Trust

Otago Peninsula Trust logo

Hoani has a Bachelor of Science in Zoology and Ecology, and a Post Grad Diploma in Science in Geography. He has an active interest in environmental issues, both in the marine and terrestrial environments. Hoani is active locally on the Otago Peninsula Community Board, Trustee of the Yellow-Eyed Penguin Trust and a Tangata Tiaki for the Otago Coastal Marine Area. He is the former chairperson of the Otago Conservation Board and a former member of several national species recovery groups (including Kaki, Yellow Eyed Penguin and Grand and Otago Skinks). He is currently employed as Ecotourism Manager for the Otago Peninsula Trust, a role that has him responsible for the Royal Albatross Centre and Blue Penguins Pukekura. He lives on the Otago Peninsula above Wellers Rock, where along with his family he maintains a small lifestyle property.

Otago Peninsula Trust objectives

  • The stimulation of public interest in and care of the beauty, history and character of the Otago Peninsula.
  • The preservation of the natural attractions of the area and the protection of the flora and fauna of the area.
  • The development of tourist attractions, public and recreational services so that the public may obtain maximum use and enjoyment of the area in a way that will not detract from or destroy its beauty or character.
  • The promotion of knowledge of and interest in the objects of the Trust by meetings, exhibitions, educational courses and all other forms of instruction and publicity.
Maria Ioannou profile image

Maria Ioannou

Corporate Policy Manager – Community and Planning,
Dunedin City Council

Dunedin City Council logo

Currently driving key long-term strategy and policy at the local government level, with a strong focus on climate change adaptation and mitigation.

Creative and strategic public policy professional, with an ability to draw together disparate information to imagine new futures. Expert at working with partners, stakeholders and the community in the development of innovative thinking.

Barry Bignell profile image

Barry Bignell

Executive General Manager Zero Harm, 
Downer NZ

Downer Group logo

Downer is the leading provider of integrated services in Australia and New Zealand. Through trusted relationships and world leading insight we work closely with our customers to design, build and sustain assets, infrastructure and facilities.

Zak Cohen Rudin profile image

Zak Cohen Rudin

Dunedin Climate Strike Organiser, 
Dunedin, NZ

Otago Daily Times with Zak

Except from Otago Daily Times (22 February 2019), read the full article here.


Logan Park High School pupil Zak Rudin’s passion for the environment has prompted him to join the worldwide School Strike 4 Climate campaign and help organise an event for Dunedin school pupils in the Octagon on March 15.

He said pollution had left the planet in the thick of a “climate crisis”, causing prolonged drought, heatwaves and catastrophic bushfires in Australia, and severe cyclones and rising sea levels that were threatening people’s homes and livelihoods in other parts of the Pacific.

Yet politicians were not doing enough to combat the problem.

So the 16-year-old is co-ordinating a School Strike 4 Climate event in Dunedin, where pupils can walk out of classes to tell politicians to take them seriously and start treating climate change for what it is – “a crisis and the biggest threat to our generation and generations to come”..

Jen Coatham profile image

Jen Coatham

Regional Convenor
Generation Zero

Generation Zero logo

Generation Zero is a non-partisan, youth-led climate organisation that champions solutions towards a carbon neutral Aotearoa.

We campaign for smarter transport, liveable cities and independence from fossil fuels by lobbying government, business and other actors to advance climate change action.

It’s time for New Zealand to step up.

Martin Russell profile image

Martin Russell

New Zealand partnerships manager,

KeepCup logo

With a background in hospitality, connecting consumers with where their food, drinks and coffee come from, Martin has spent years exploring waste in this sector – what is wasted, why and where does it go? Working with coffee roasters and cafes in London and Melbourne, he oversaw food waste composting schemes that fed product back to veggie producers, he encouraged reuse and built meaningful and sustainable supplier relationships.

His role at KeepCup gives him the opportunity to share this experience with those in the coffee and café worlds as well as the tertiary, events and corporate sectors. We’re all in this together and Martin is determined to play his part.