Position: Policy Advisor, Strategy Field: Science, environmental policy and planning, training and development, project management Organisation: Waikato Raupatu River Trust (WRRT)

Cheri van Schravendijk-Goodman is a policy advisor in areas of science and environmental planning and projects for Waikato Raupatu River Trust (under Waikato-Tainui Te Kauhanganui Inc.). She has interests in environmental science (particularly ethnobotany, restoration and mātauranga pūtaiao), biosecurity and the training and development of iwi at the ‘flaxroots’.

Initially, Cheri dreamed of being either a veterinarian or a police officer – she loves the outdoors, animals and working with people. However, she got distracted during high school and ended up working in hospitality for 5 years. The vet dream lingered, and Cheri started taking maths and science papers at Hagley Community College in Christchurch. After a second veering off course, Cheri decided to study for a bachelor’s degree in resource studies (which later became the Bachelor of Environmental Management) at Lincoln University. That career path was one of the most important steps she took because it gave her a broad background in studies around social science, ecology, biology, physical sciences/geology, water engineering, environmental economics, environmental policy and planning, resource management law and human ecology, and most importantly, it reconnected Cheri with the issues being faced by tangata whenua and their natural resources and the impacts of colonisation on their roles as environmental managers and decision-makers.

The best work is the most diverse work, and sometimes deviating off track can create the most innovative and exciting results.

During her years at university, Cheri had three children – so their playground was the lecture theatres of Lincoln University, the student whare Te Whakakotahi and the café (Mrs O’s!). The children gave Cheri a new appreciation for environmental work and caused her to think about what she coudld do to ensure them a good future. Cheri loved everything about the outdoors and was unsure about which direction to take until a mentor – Dr Jamie Ataria – helped her to realise that she loved plants (her mother was an avid gardener, and Cheri used to help her). Cheri did her master’s in ecology at the University of Canterbury studying a native weaving plant – the kiekie (Freycinetia banksii) – and working with amazing weavers from across the country. It was during that time that Cheri decided to work with tangata whenua. The signing of the Agreement in Principle for the Waikato River Settlement between Waikato-Tainui and the government in December 2007 caught Cheri’s attention. She sought to work with Waikato-Tainui and landed a job with them in 2008, just as they were closing negotiations on the River Settlement. She hasn’t looked back since.

Cheri’s position is very diverse. One day, she could be at a negotiation table discussing matters of importance to Waikato – on other days, she is project managing research programmes. She could be part of a national focus group or network evaluating national policy issues of importance to tangata whenua, or she is out working directly with marae around issues related to land management, environmental restoration and/or training and development needs.

Cheri says the best days are when she’s out on the river with local tangata whenua and/or agencies, wading through mud at Whangamarino, monitoring birdlife or fish and planting trees.

When she’s not working, Cheri still loves being in the outdoors – spending time in the garden, experimenting with the placement of plants (native and exotic). Cheri loves natives and tries to squeeze as many of them as possible into her landscaping.

Cheri enjoys music – she used to play the saxophone but now settles for expanding her jazz and funk music collections.

Time Cheri spends with her children and husband is precious – they are the key reason why she does what she does.

Cheri also loves a good book, with her loyal dog Cruz curled up at her feet. Cheri and Cruz spend a lot of time just chilling out together – contemplating the meaning of life.

This article is based on information current in 2014.

    Published 19 March 2014