Stewardship Takes Alumni Passion into Career Niche

May 8, 2024

Long before it became an industry buzzword, Keystone alumni Samantha McGavock has been walking the talk on sustainability, fortified by a deep connection and reverence for the environment through her Māori heritage.

“The value of the strong relationships I have made through Keystone, the friendships, and the people I can reach out to with ‘phone-a-friend’ questions when needed continues to mean so much to me. This community is one I’ll remain grateful for and connected with throughout my life.”

The Kaihautū-Co-director at Auckland-based project management and environmental consultancy Done. has effectively turned this passion into a thriving niche career, weaving indigenous perspectives into her work as one of the country’s leading experts in urban design, community development, and environmental regeneration.

 At seventeen, the Rotorua Girls’ High School all-rounder was into everything – and upon reflection, she says her various interests as a youngster have contributed in different ways to her chosen career path.

 “Cultural activities and sustainable initiatives have fed into each other, and there’s a clear sense that all roads have led me here,” she says.

 Samantha’s career has been marked by a constant flow of organic opportunities, reflected in 2011 when the scholarship recipient spoke at a Keystone event, catching the eye of former sponsor Arrow International executives, who promptly offered her a graduate role within the organisation.  

 She refined her sense of kaitiakitanga-guardianship in this position through a series of regenerative projects, including the first certified Living Building in Aotearoa-New Zealand, for iwi client Tūhoe Te Uru Taumatua.

 The experience earned her a nod as a highly commended New Zealand Institute of Building (NZIOB) Young Achiever in 2014, strengthening her conviction to work in partnership with industry groups to deliver interconnected living systems that benefit people and place.

 Adept at developing professional synergy, she has continued to impress collaboration partners since moving on to form boutique project management consultancy Done. alongside her sister. In this role, focusing on urban regeneration, Samantha has spearheaded a series of effective workstreams with various iwi clients, Government organisations, and multi-national corporations.

 The business is in an exciting growth phase, reflecting massive demand for regenerative practice and design across the private and public sectors. This demand is grounded in the evolving notion that, as Kiwis, we are deeply connected to our environment rather than separate from it.

 “I’m a big advocate for just saying ‘yes,’’’ she laughs, noting that her professional success is anchored by good practice and cultivating strong working relationships.

 “Doing what you say you will and treating all members of project communities as individuals with their own needs and voices has worked out well. We may work differently, but we can always work together.”

 With unwavering humility and natural leadership, this mantra continues to guide Samantha’s professional journey, with her current workflow reading more like a lifetime of career highlights.

 Alongside exciting projects at Done. including two regeneration kaupapa-projects, Te Aka Raataa and Te Ara Tukutuku for Eke Panuku and Mana Whenua; she is involved with the Auckland Urban Design Panel (AUDP), is a founding member of the New Zealand Green Building Council (NZGBC) Māori Technical Working Group, and remains a founding member of the Living Future Institute of Australasia (LFIA) Technical Working Group, while also co-facilitating their Regional Intensive Course.

 While hitting career highs many only dream about, she fondly remembers her early days as part of the Keystone Trust whānau, flying up to Auckland for events, intimate barbeques with the team and other students, and the opportunity to rub shoulders with industry elites since becoming a Study Award recipient in 2007.

 “The value of the strong relationships I have made through Keystone, the friendships, and the people I can reach out to with ‘phone-a-friend’ questions when needed continues to mean so much to me.

 “This community is one I’ll remain grateful for and connected with throughout my life,” she says.

 For further media enquiries, please contact:

 Amanda Stanes
Keystone Trust – General Manager
M: 021 689 380
E: amanda@keystonetrust.org.nz 

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