The familiar face caring for our waterfront

11 May 2020

If it came to contesting who had the best office in the capital, Celia Koni reckons she’d be in for the win. Her workplace is spacious, with good sun and spectacular views.

Celia Koni working on the waterfront.

Celia Koni on the Wellington waterfront.

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“It’s awesome,” Celia says. “I’ve got a big office – the waterfront.”

Celia will be a familiar face to many as she has been responsible for keeping Wellington City’s waterfront clean and tidy for about two decades. Rain, wind, and shine, Celia can be spotted daily either in her buggy or on foot, patrolling her beat around Lambton Harbour between Chaffers Marina and the Bluebridge Ferry Terminal, opposite the Railway Station.

“I do pretty much everything,” she says. “Cleaning toilets, clearing rubbish that’s been blown up from out of the sea, spraying weeds, and a lot of sweeping, but the wind tends to get the best of it sometimes.”

Celia is widely known and respected for the pride she takes in her work. Employed by ISS Facility Services, who are contracted by Wellington City Council’s Parks, Sport and Recreation Waterfront Team, her cleaning career began more than 20 years ago, first at a bank and then a university.

Her managers recognised her flair and dedication and encouraged her to take courses that qualified her to become a supervisor. Celia says over the years she’s had many managers who have both inspired and motivated her to do her best, an attitude that she now endeavours to instil within her own team.

“But even I’m still learning today – there are a lot of challenges in cleaning.”

Celia Koni working on the waterfront.

During the Covid-19 lockdown, Celia’s staff were redeployed and she worked as a lone ranger to keep the harbour side in order. She says it was a quiet time, with far fewer people venturing out and less rubbish to collect.

As pandemic restrictions are relaxed, Celia is looking forward to welcoming her team members back on board.

When asked what she likes best about caring for the waterfront, Celia gives a big answer – “My favourite part of the job is everything”. 

But she then adds that it’s the social side of the job she enjoys most and all the exercise she gets to do.

Celia Koni working on the waterfront.

She also acts as a watchdog, reporting suspicious behaviour and any hazards, and stands in as a waterfront celebrity when tourists are in town.

“I meet a lot of people on my way. Before the lockdown, people from overseas always wanted to take photos with me to take home with them just to show they have been on the waterfront – but it’s not just me, there are other people who get asked to have their photos taken.”

Council’s Waterfront and City Parks Specialist Elizabeth Webley says Celia is incredibly valued and is like the glue that holds things together. 

“I’ve worked with Celia now for five years and when she is not around for a while we really know about it!”

Kelly Crandle, Waterfront and City Parks Manager, added that Celia’s dedication was also recognised and appreciated by the businesses that operate on the waterfront.