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Leadership and Adaption for Healthy Families Whanganui Rangitīkei Ruapehu

Updated: Sep 2, 2018

The Healthy Families Whanganui Rangitīkei Ruapehu (WRR) journey over the last two and a half years or so has been one of experiential learning and has, by necessity, been agile and adaptive all the way.

Getting comfortable with change and adapting our approach based on the information and feedback loops that we have available to us has been both exciting and challenging.

Reflection and adaption has been essential as we grapple with complexity, systems thinking and what that means in our local context. 


Denise Servante, former Strategy and Community Planning manager at Rangitīkei District Council, and outgoing member of the Healthy Families WRR Leadership Group has been part of this since the beginning.

Denise has seen the leadership adapt significantly since the first governance hui in 2014.


"Initially it was called the governance group so I think those of us who were there in the beginning expected that we would provide more analysis and guidance for the direction of the programme. But it became clear that the role was intended to be one of influencing via our networks to bring about the systems change that is at the heart of the Healthy Families kaupapa. So leadership group more correctly describes what we do."

From the early development phase of stocktaking and systems mapping, through to the initial implementation phase of working with the willing and taking opportunities to create momentum, our implementation has continued to adapt.

This year, has seen Healthy Families WRR review and refresh the approach again as we head into our next consolidation phase and intentionally focus our efforts for maximum systems-change impact. 

Healthy Families WRR aims to create environments that make healthy change easier where our community lives, learns, works and plays and a big part of that is celebrating local leadership.

From local policy to protect and enhance the health of constituents, to creating public spaces that are supportive of good health and wellbeing, local government has a mighty reach in terms of influencing the health and wellbeing of communities.

The Local Alcohol Policy, the smokefree/Vapefree policy and increasing access to water in sport and recreation facilities are just some examples of things HFWRR have been involved in alongside our collaborative partners including local councils that demonstrate where this change is possible.


Denise shares her views about what has changed at the Rangitīkei District Council  and within the Rangitīkei community as a result of being involved in HF WRR; “There is a much greater awareness of sugary drinks and a more general commitment to water-only events across the community which is a BIG win. I think this starts a cascade of thinking about healthy foods generally and then about healthy lifestyles. At Council, leading from the top is good – our CE is physically very active and has encouraged the staff team to, for example, enter two teams triathlon in Marton recently. A big win for HF WRR has been having The HFWRR Rangitīkei Health Promoter very visible in the local community and leading by example.”

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