MARY ARGUE
mary.argue@age.co.nz

It’s a watershed moment, 75 years in the making.

One of Wairarapa’s most prominent and long-established old boys’ clubs has elected a woman chair.

Masterton Trust House recently appointed Mena Antonio to the top position at the organisation.

It signalled a further step towards a more diverse governance board, one that was representative of the community it served.

“About bloody time,” Antonio said.

“Legacy is difficult to breakthrough, and I don’t know that we fully appreciate that.

“It shouldn’t have taken this long.”

Trust House, established in 1947, was a typically male-dominated institution and took more than 65 years to elect a woman to a governance role.

Today, four of the six-member board of directors were women.

Antonio said her appointment was humbling and signalled a cultural shift that had been underway in the organisation for several years.

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She said it reaffirmed the organisation’s greater focus on social housing outcomes in a challenging environment, indicating both political and pandemic-related complexities.

“What drives me is the belief that we are not servicing houses. We are in service of our tenants and in service of our customers.”

Antonio said her focus was on the community voice and ensuring people felt they were genuinely represented and heard.

“There are a lot of external factors affecting housing, but we can listen better and build on the plans that have been put in place.”

Since taking ownership of public housing in the late 1990s, Trust House has become one of the largest community housing landlords in New Zealand.

The organisation owned and managed more than 480 rental properties in Wairarapa and Tararua.

Antonio, who was also recently appointed chief executive of Catholic social justice agency Caritas, would replace Jock Kershaw as chair of the trust.

Kershaw, a member of the Trust House Group for 21 years, said he felt “very privileged” to have been involved in the organisation for so long.

He served 14 years as a director, seven of those as chair.

Kershaw indicated this year he would not be seeking re-election, saying it made sense to stand down earlier to give a successor time to adjust.

“I do believe I have left the company in better financial shape than at the time of my appointment as chairman,” he said.



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