By Petrina Wright | Posted: Wednesday February 1, 2023
Community is at the heart of what motivates Presbyterian Support Southland’s new chief executive Matt Russell, personally and professionally.
“I was attracted to the role at Presbyterian Support Southland (PSS) because of the organisation’s connectedness to the community,” he said.
“Its purpose aligns with my values.”
Matt was welcomed into the PSS whanau with a mihi whakatau at Central Office on Monday (30 January) attended by PSS board members, staff and Matt’s family, friends and former colleagues from the Southland District Council.
Matt was born in Wanaka, and his family moved around Southland and Otago during his early childhood years. Matt’s father was a school teacher and later a school principal, while his mother was a nurse.
Matt’s family settled in Southland when he was about 9 years old.
His high school years were spent at Verdon College where he was involved in a number of sporting and musical pursuits, before going on to Otago University to complete a degree in Geography.
Matt then spent a gap year in Korea teaching English to children before completing a post-graduate degree in Environmental Sciences in Vienna.
On returning to New Zealand, Matt reconnected with Rohan, a high-school friend who would later become his wife.
The couple lived in Christchurch for 13 years, and have two children, Agnes (8) and Nina (6).
While in Christchurch, Matt worked in several infrastructure and construction-oriented roles.
The couple decided to move back to the deep south in 2018 to raise their family.
We enjoy the outdoors, so it was the lifestyle opportunities and the strong sense of community found in Southland which have brought us home, he said.
“When you’re out and about in Southland you often bump into people you know to say hello to.
“I love [that]…you don’t typically get that in larger urban centres.”
Before moving to PSS, Matt was the General Manager of Infrastructure and Environmental Services at the Southland District Council.
He is also on the boards of Active Southland and Milford Sound Tourism.
Matt said he was excited about his role with PSS.
“I am looking forward to getting out into the organisation and meeting with our people,” he said.
“It’s clear that the last couple of years have been particularly challenging [for PSS]. But it’s also evident that, despite these challenges, the team has done an amazing job continuing to provide these critical services to the community.
“I am really excited about continuing the fabulous legacy that PSS has already established in Southland, and central to that for me is ensuring we are top of people’s minds and their first choice for both social services and aged care services in Southland.”