Jennifer Nickel | Waikato Regional Council | Hamilton Ward

This blog is part of a series of blogs profiling all candidates standing for Councils across the region who are 35 or under as we aim to increase youth engagement in local politics. Seed Waikato is non-partisan.


Jen is a sustainability professional who is fascinated by environmental and wellbeing solutions for both urban and rural life. Having spent several years as an Environmental Manager in the dairy industry she has a wealth of knowledge in demonstrating compliance with environmental legislation and believes in well-designed systems to make doing the right thing easy. She believes we need to value and invest in our environment more and promotes collaboration for achieving social wellbeing.

If elected, she would bring scientific skills and some much-needed diversity to the table, with the aim of making councillors more approachable as well as increasing online engagement.

 “The data is clear that we can do much better when it comes to action on climate change, biodiversity and our waterways. I wish to inspire our younger generations to believe their contributions to strategic planning are worthy and hold weight in our democracy.”

You can keep up with Jen on her:

Q&A with Jennifer

1.      What is your vision for the region?

I envision people being proud of their homes, towns and natural environment, expanded public transport being the most enjoyable and affordable option, and well-paying job opportunities in a variety of industries.

That we feel safe and supported in our communities with plenty of hands-on information on how we can enhance and enjoy our environment.  I hope that by 2030 we will be grateful that we put more value on each other and the environment now so that we can enjoy more options instead of more problems in the future.

2.      Why did you decide to run in this year’s elections?

I want to make a positive difference to the future of our region.  I had some extra time for reflection recently while on maternity leave and realised I really could add value by contributing my views alongside others at regional council. We need a wider variety of ideas at that table to strategically design a future that supports our changing lifestyles and organisations. With good design and good collaborations we can end up more socially and environmentally-friendly by default.

3.      What are your top 3 priorities in your campaign?

(1) Balancing the environment better - we all need more assistance to transition our lifestyles to be more fulfilling and environmentally-friendly. I envisage regional council being the glue that gets us there. On the flipside, if someone is still so arrogant as to be actively polluting they need to be held to account.

(2) Collaborating for wellbeing – our biggest challenges have some deep-rooted causes that will only be resolved if organisations and individuals work together to come up with decent policy that can be implemented in a cooperative way from various angles.  Bring on more collaboration, and less silos.

(3) Modern interaction with regional council – there is a big missed opportunity if people are not providing their opinions or engaging with people who make long-lasting decisions for everyone.  There are many modern communication tools and ways to simplify systems that could be utilised to enthuse and motivate people to get involved in having a say for their region and future.

4.      What’s been your biggest learning in your campaigning?

How much support there is out there for someone who is willing to enter the world of regional council for the right reasons, and how some people really concern themselves with local government a lot versus many others who don’t give it any thought at all and find it highly off-putting. Obviously, that’s a massive divide which really needs addressing if the system is to work for all and be sustainable. 

5.      What do you think needs to be done to engage young people in voting?

The things that experts (and even non-experts) have already told us election after election but we still haven’t found the time to trial or put into place, for example: lowering the voting age, teaching about it in schools, increasing diversity of representation, communicating topics in a way that shows relevance to our lives, providing modern options for the engagement process and so on.  

6.      What skills and experience do you bring to the table?

I’ve got a diverse mix of life experience because I am always fascinated by other ways of doing things – especially more sustainable or regenerative ways of doing things.  In my time as Environmental Manager at Fonterra I have worked hard to improve environmental awareness, report accurately on compliance and build positive relationships with local communities. I’ve learned what’s important to individuals, businesses and councils and now I want to take that to a larger level.  Additionally, my scientific background has provided me with the skills to evaluate information critically and my sustainability skills are widely applicable at regional council. 

7.      What sets you apart from other candidates?

My attitude and my fresh perspective.  We know we want our councils to be more diverse in the views they represent and I believe newcomers are important to the thinking in local government which can be so stale at times. I am a sponge for learning and want to hear the views of others to see where we can agree on true root causes of the issues we face and the best fit solutions.

Click the image to listen to Jennifer’s radio interview alongside her fellow WRC candidate William Durning on Free FM’s Kelli From The Tron show.

Click the image to listen to Jennifer’s radio interview alongside her fellow WRC candidate William Durning on Free FM’s Kelli From The Tron show.