The National New Energy Development Centre (NNEDC) Establishment team will be a full complement of four by early December with the appointment of Cressida Gates-Thompson, Senior Communications Advisor, Dion Cowley, Project Manager and Caroline Gunn, Project & Research Co-Ordinator. They will join General Manager – Establishment for the NNEDC, Pam Walklin.

In September 2019, Venture Taranaki’s NNEDC establishment project commenced in earnest with Pam Walklin starting, and the goal being to have the Centre operational in approximately mid-2020.

Pam said, “I’m excited to have Cressida, Dion and Caroline join the team. They will play an integral role in establishing the NNEDC in a way that fosters ongoing growth and success. Plans are also advancing to begin the recruitment process for the Governance Board in the next few weeks.”

Once established, the NNEDC will be a national-hub, centred in Taranaki, and will connect and collaborate with many different parts of the energy eco-system. It will be pivotal in leading and facilitating new energy innovation as New Zealand moves towards a low-emissions future.

Venture Taranaki Chief Executive Justine Gilliland said, “At a local level, Taranaki’s energy sector represents over a quarter of the regional economic output. It has a depth of existing energy industry infrastructure and a large, highly skilled workforce and supply chain that holds a wealth of expertise and energy knowledge.

“Our journey is not just about new energy creation,” added Justine. “It’s also about the retention of expertise and repurposing of skills in Taranaki. We have the opportunity to demonstrate and commercialise advances in new energy technology by refocusing the traditional energy sector and redefining it for the future.”

Cressida, who joined the NNEDC Establishment team in early November said, “It’s a great opportunity to be involved in this project from the beginning. The newly appointed roles will be key to ensuring the NNEDC launches strongly and identifies and connects with its many regional, national and international stakeholders from the very start.

“Sharing the stories and disseminating information about already existing and future energy innovation is also going to be important as the centre moves forward,” she added.

Pam said, “As we work through the establishment phase our plan is to engage as many in the energy sector to find out how we can connect with them on this journey to a low emissions future.

“This includes, large energy companies, infrastructure and supply chain firms to new-energy start-ups, research institutions, local and central government, investors, iwi and communities, as well as international entities”.


About NNEDC: New Zealand has set ambitious goals for a low-emissions future. Achieving this will rely on significantly increasing the pace of innovation and leveraging national and international connections and developments in new-energy technology. The National New Energy Development Centre is a project conceived under Tapuae Roa, Taranaki’s Regional Economic Development Strategy, and driven forward by Venture Taranaki. Following detailed business case work by Venture Taranaki, funding to support the establishment and operation of the NNEDC was announced by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern during the Just Transition Summit in New Plymouth in May 2019. Private sector investment in new energy development projects is expected to complement government’s core investment and help ensure the Centre’s longevity. More information on the NNEDC is available here.

Pam Walklin prior to her appointment to Venture Taranaki, Pam provided project and business consultancy services within the electricity distribution, smart metering and energy services sectors, including The Lines Company and FCL Metering Ltd. Pam’s background as a chartered accountant has seen her hold senior leadership roles in electricity retailing, generation, metering and energy sector services, as well as in ski area operations, television production and Iwi advocacy and stewardship. As a Taranaki local, Pam is committed to improving the region’s resilience and driving the province forward, as the nation’s energy industry evolves.

Cressida Gates-Thompson has come from the Taranaki District Health Board where she led the communications function for the DHB. With over 20 years’ of communications, PR and marketing experience, Cressida also worked in communications and sponsorship roles for Toddy Energy and Nova Energy, led the communications and marketing for the Taranaki Arts Festival Trust (TAFT) and was part of the European Public Relations team for Jones Lang LaSalle in London. From Taranaki, Cressida has a vested interest in seeing the region and New Zealand’s energy sector prosper well into the future.

Dion Cowley has over 20 years’ experience in local government, property development and green building sectors in a variety of expert and management roles. He joins VT from NPDC as the Senior Infrastructure and Environmental Strategic Planner. As a key stakeholder in the development of the H2 Taranaki Roadmap, he visited leading hydrogen projects in the UK and Europe, gathering lessons learned and building relationships. Dion is now looking forward to applying his international learnings to help New Zealand transition to a low emissions economy.

Caroline Gunn is currently the Transitional Economy Co-ordinator at Venture Taranaki and has played a key role in the delivery of the Taranaki 2050 Roadmap and the developing Transition Pathway Action Plans. Prior to moving to Taranaki with her partner, Caroline was marketing manager for a large automotive retailer in Auckland, where she led the marketing team and successfully implemented a digital marketing and communications strategy and platform. Caroline holds a Bachelor of Commerce in marketing and management and is passionate and committed to a strong new energy sector for Aotearoa.

Dion and Caroline join the NNEDC Establishment team on 2 December 2019.