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Scott De Silva

Scott De Silva is the Parks Leaders Forum incoming Chair and  Manager Regional Parks at Auckland Council. Scott has held leadership roles at Auckland Council and has an Ecology Degree from Lincoln University.


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Ian Soper 

Ian is a career horticulturist and parks professional with a focus on Grade 1 Amenity Horticulture. Providing quality places and spaces to communities is his driver. Ian is in his sixteenth year with the Gore District Council. A role he took on in 2005. Ian is about to embark on the next stage of his career with a move to the Ashburton District Council in April 2021, where he will take up the role of Open Spaces Manager. This role will again bring to the fore Ian's desire to provide top-quality parks and reserves to his new community.


Ian has a lifelong association with horticulture. Starting out as a school-boy in a garden centre, breaking down seed and fertiliser into smaller retail-sized saleable bags, then moving onto an apprenticeship in Horticulture and Gardening with Wallis's Nurseries on the Taieri, Ian became Trade Qualified. Ian's career then flowed through the retail and contracting sectors of horticulture before resettling into amenity horticulture in the Nelson /Tasman Region. Ian worked for contractors Excel Corporation then Sicon Ltd (Selwyn District Councils trading entity), undertaking maintenance for primarily Tasman District Council and Nelson City along with numerous other commercial maintenance and landscaping contracts. At Sicon Ian's role was Horticultural Manager overseeing 40+ staff in depots at Nelson, Richmond, Motueka, and Takaka. Ian says, "building close working relationships with like-minded colleagues in these Councils was immensely satisfying".


Latterly,  looking after and delivering a wide array of recreational pursuits and services in parks, reserves and cemeteries is Ian’s primary focus. The in-house operational model is Ian's preference and speciality. Ian has built a large collegial network across New Zealand and has been heavily involved in various industry organisations. Being a regional branch chair of New Zealand Recreation Association (NZRA) and regional representative on the NZRA Regional Advisory Group. When it comes to leadership, Ian has been heavily involved with one team of colleagues that have grown the New Zealand Parks Leaders Forum (PLF). From humble beginnings with Parks Forum's exit,  PLF is now a fully-fledged entity that supports parks professionals nationwide and beyond. Ian has been the Chair of Finance for the  PLF since its inception.

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Bridget Elliott

Bridget is Open Spaces Planner with Southland District Council and PLF Scholarship co-recipient. Bridget has been at Southland District Council for over two years in this role having concluded a Bachelor of Environmental Management majoring in Parks and Recreation at Lincoln University. Whilst a full-time student at Lincoln University Bridget was an intern for the Cornwall Park Trust Board in Auckland as a Park Assistant.

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Geoff Canham 

Geoff is a Principal Parks and Recreation Specialist and Accredited Parks and Recreation Professional (ARPro) and Certified Parks Professional international (CPPI). Geoff runs Thrive Spaces and Places, a specialist parks and recreation consultancy. Geoff has 39 years’ experience in parks agency/ local government parks and recreation with New Zealand and international experience in parks and recreation leadership, planning and project management as a specialist consultant since 2006. Previous to this, Geoff worked for five local authorities in the parks/ environment field, four of which being in New Zealand, including eight years with Tauranga City Council as Parks and Leisure infrastructure Manager. Geoff has recently assisted DOC on strategic projects for Heritage and Visitor Management since 2018 and undertakes Recreation Assessment evidence work at an Environment Court and Judicial Review Level. Geoff has previously assisted DOC with an independent peer review on a commercial joint venture proposed to be between DOC and multiple agencies at Te Anau on DOC land.

Geoff was an official guest of the U.S Department of Agriculture for presentations in Washington DC, and latterly in Canberra as an official guest of the Australian Federal Government, both on ‘co-design with indigenous peoples’ on subject matter to effect joint environmental outcomes. Geoff has also participated in review processes for whole of landscape scale projects for Californian National Parks Agencies. Geoff has given over 15 Conference presentations in New Zealand, Australia, and the U.S, has had over 10 articles published and is the recipient of two NZRA industry awards.  


Geoff currently volunteers for the Waiariki Park Region initiative and serves on the Maungatautiri Reserve Committee (Predator free Sanctuary Mountain), the BOP Envirohub Board and convenes the New Zealand Parks Leaders Forum. Geoff has performed the role of industry mentor for the New Zealand Recreation Association (NZRA) and an international Peer Reviewer for Parks Agencies and a peer reviewer for Sport New Zealand. Geoff has held two Chair roles for strategic and regional roles for NZRA (formerly the chair for the NZRA National Peer Review Panel and formerly the chair for the Regional Advisory Group (to advise the NZRA Board)) and is the current Chair of the Industry Accreditation Board for the NZRA. Geoff was also the NZRA Central Region chairman for 17 years. In 2013 Geoff was awarded the Ian Galloway Memorial Cup for Excellence and Outstanding Contribution to the Wider Parks Industry. Geoff was admitted as a Recreation Aotearoa Fellow in 2022.

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Board Member 

Holly Meese

Holly is Senior Parks Project Specialist in the Parks Sport and Recreation Department for Auckland Council and PLF Scholarship co-recipient. Holly has worked for Auckland Council for five years in several parks related roles, including leading policy and strategy for open space provision, contributions to sports field design projects, and processing public requests for use of council-owned parks and reserves.


Holly’s portfolio is focused on climate change and sustainability, a topic she has presented on internationally to sector conferences. Holly leads several significant projects including a Low Carbon Parks research project the Urban Ngahere (forest) Growing Program. Holly has a BA Honours in Geography from Auckland University.


Board Member 

Bill Steans

Dip Hort Mgt; NDH: FRA (Fellow Recreation Aotearoa), FRIH (Fellow Royal NZ Institute of Horticulture)


Currently Patron Timaru Horticultural Society, Member of Yardstick Advisory Group, Member of World Urban Parks and Recreation Aotearoa. (Previously Regional Advisor to Recreation Aotearoa Board for Northern South Island).


Bill has also been an office bearer and trustee in various community groups as well as holding management roles in a number of South Island Parks Agencies and has previously operated a landscape contracting business. He has also performed Acting GM roles in both Community Services and Engineering Services groups of Council.


Bill has been in his current role since 1988 which encompasses parks, cemeteries, commercial forestry, streetscapes, and cycling and walking trails.


Maria Barrie

Board Member 

Hi am Maria Barrie, the Unit Director of Parks & Recreation at Hamilton City Council.  It is an incredible privilege to lead a fantastic and diverse team of 140 parks professionals who manage our parks assets, plan for the future of parks in Hamilton, maintain our places and spaces, grow our plants, and look after our cemetery and crematorium.


I am passionate about the Parks Industry,  the work we do in play, active recreation and providing places and spaces for our communities to thrive.  I also particularly enjoy seeing our people grow and succeed in a variety of career paths.  It is a wonderful industry with most people, including me, absolutely loving what they do.


At home I enjoy gardening, with a never-ending list of things to do on a semi-rural property, following my daughters various sporting pursuits and getting around to see what our beautiful country has to offer.


Board Member 

Myfanwy Emeny

Myfanwy Emeny is the Open Space and Parks Manager at Wellington City Council.  The Open Space and Parks team are responsible for cemeteries, public gardens, urban ecology & environmental management, park ranger services, nursery operations, and waterfront operations. The team are the kaitaiki of our open spaces and influence how people experience them.​ Mātauranga māori concepts are recognised and embedded in their care for te taiao and manuhiri.


Myfanwy’s background is in Ecology, and she has worked with urban wildlife for over 20 years.  She is passionate about connecting people to nature. Myfanwy wrote the award-winning Wellington biodiversity strategy - ‘Our Natural Capital’, which a range of innovative programmes sits under.  Myfanwy feels that Park Managers act as a stewards of public green space, and need to balance conservation and recreational objectives. Getting this balance right can engage park users in recreational experiences, such as mountain biking, that also helps them appreciate the need for nature conservation. 

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Board Advisor 

Michael Ayrton

Michael Ayrton is the former Park Director of the Cornwall Park Trust Board. Michael was raised as a youngster in Rawene on the Hokianga Harbour, Northland, and then attended Auckland Grammar School from 1975 to 1979. In 1980, he joined the New Zealand Forest Service and undertook training in Forest Management, including studying science at Auckland University and Parks and Recreation at Lincoln.

After completing his studies, he worked as a Recreation Planner for the then Forestry Corporation in their Auckland office, followed by a similar role with the Department of Conservation. From 1989 to 1991 he was Senior Ranger at Wenderholm Regional Park for the Auckland Regional Authority.

In 1991 Michael was appointed to the position that he has held to the present day: Park Director for the Cornwall Park Trust Board.

Michael has played an active role in many industry-related organisations, including:

Michael also has provided long service to the parks sector:

  • Membership of the Parks Forum, being appointed a Board Member in 2008; Deputy Chair of Parks Forum

  • Active membership of the New Zealand Arboriculture Association

  • Membership of the Unitec Institute of Technology Horticultural Advisory Committee for three years

  • Trustee of Highbrook Park, Manukau City

  • New Zealand Michael Ayrton joined the Royal New Zealand Institute of Horticulture (RNZIH) (The Institute) in 1993 and since then has contributed much to this organisation. For nine years (1998 to 2007), he was a member of the National Executive and represented the Institute on the Board of the New Zealand Horticultural Training Organisation from 2001 to 2007. In 2000, he helped to organise a meeting of garden owners at Eden Gardens, Auckland, and this was an important step in the formation of what is now the RNZIH New Zealand Gardens Trust

  • During his time on the HITO board, and largely thanks to his input, a relationship developed between RNZIH and HITO which led, in 2004, to the formation of the RNZIH Education Trust with the aim of the Institute having an active role in promoting excellence in horticultural training. He was one of the founding board members of the Education Trust and played an active role in its management, including the establishment and extensive involvement in the Young Horticulturist of the Year competition, until standing down in 2007 in order to have more time to organise a parks conference.

  • Previously a member and leader of the antecedent NZIFPRA

  • Involved in the wider sector formally from 1980

  • Involved in horticulture/ wider industry since 1980

  • Parks Forum Board member 2008 until 2014

  • Member Parks Managers Group/ Parks Leaders Forum, 2015 to present

  • The second Cornwall Park 100-year Masterplan process and adoption

  • Cornwall Park as a contributing International Plant Propagation Society member

  • Contribution internationally via projects and membership to the Parks Forum and through personal associations

  • Being a member of many peer review teams that critique other agencies parks operations and networks

  • Michael is the recipient of the New Zealand Arboriculture Association, Ron Flook Award in 1999 for his services to arboriculture in New Zealand and the New Zealand Ian Galloway Memorial Cup for Outstanding Services to the Parks Industry.

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