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Trust House picks an interim chief

Wairarapa social housing provider and hospitality business operator Trust House has announced that Graeme Bell will serve as interim chief executive of the company until the role has been permanently filled.

The trust has been unable to provide an estimate of how long the process of appointing a new chief executive will take.

In the meantime, Bell will work for three days a week in his interim role, which he officially starts on Thursday, March 9.

The temporary appointment follows the resignation of previous chief executive Charles Kaka after a two-and-a-half-year stint in the position.

Kaka’s sudden resignation followed a critical public response to the trust’s announcement that it would be hiking its tenants’ rents by an average of 60 per cent from April 1 in order to partially finance its housing improvement plan, which is costed at $50 million.

Bell’s career includes senior leadership roles in banking, the health system, community-based social services, and community housing.

Several of his previous roles have had a Wairarapa connection.

As Crown Health Financing Agency chief executive, Bell played a part in financing the new Masterton hospital.

As deputy chair of the Emerge Aotearoa Trust, he was involved in the provision of community-based mental health and drug addiction services in the region; and as chair of Emerge Aotearoa Housing Trust, he was integral in the establishment of a social housing complex that opened in Masterton in September last year.

Trust House Board of Directors Chair Mena Antonio – who until recently was a board member of Emerge Aotearoa Limited and Emerge Aotearoa Housing Trust – said in a statement that the organisation is “very fortunate to have secured someone of Graeme’s calibre”.

“With a strong affinity and understanding of social housing Graeme is a great fit for the organisation as we continue to advance our housing improvement programme that will ensure better outcomes for our tenants.”

Through a communications advisor, the trust has previously indicated the new interim chief executive will be the most appropriate person to respond to Times-Age questions about its housing improvement plan, the source of its $20 million or so of debt, and what’s contributed to the apparent 85 per cent increase in its operating expenses in the past four years, on the basis that they touch on “operational matters”.

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