News | 12 May 2021
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From rural Congo to city council

From rural Congo to New Zealand, Mark Noyes always knew he wanted to help people, just like generations of his family before him. Here he tells us how privileged he feels holding a position that allows him to help Wellingtonians, and why he loves his job so much.

Mark Noyes, taking a selfie with his helmet on and bike handlebars in shot, with rolling hills in the distance.

Tell us about your role

I’m a Neighbourhood Resilience Advisor. I set up and maintain partnerships on behalf of Wellington City Council with community groups and social organisations to increase community connection in Wellington. My work is evidence-based, focusing on people’s social needs, and ensuring people are better connected. 

What did you want to be when you grew up?   

I grew up in rural DR Congo in Central Africa in a multi-generational family working in community development, and just assumed I’d do something similar in Central Africa. 

What did you do to get into this line of work?  

I studied international relations in the United States with the intent of working in aid and development or foreign service. After graduating, I took up a position in the American Peace Corps with my partner and volunteered for a two-year placement, not knowing where in the world we’d be sent.

My placement in Tonga was to teach English but that turned into working with a whole school system to build staff capacity, upgrade its facilities, and start income generating projects. On the side, I helped set up an e-waste management system in the country. 

How long have you been in NZ and Council?  

I came to Wellington in 2013 with my partner and we fell in love with the city. Four years later, I joined the Recycle Centre team at Council, helping to recover reusable items for re-sale, and teaching people how to be more sustainable.

A year later an opportunity came up in the Community Services team and now I’m so privileged to find myself in a role that allows me to do what I love.

Mark Noyes and his sister, taking a selfie on rocky terrain with hilly mountains, and pine trees behind.

Talk us through a ‘typical’ day? Is there one?  

I work with a variety of different partners including resident associations, religious organisations, and community groups to enable people to socialise. These days most people closely rely on only two-to-four people while others have nobody to rely on at all and are completely isolated.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 has seen those numbers get worse, so it’s more important than ever that we work hard to ensure people have other people in their lives, and easy ways to participate.  

My team helps provide frameworks, funding, and space for people to get involved in communities. Most of these are organised by Community Centres or our City Libraries as they tend to know the specific communities in their area and what would work best.

Neighbours Day is an example of this mahi and is an annual campaign that helps us promote how and why people need social interaction. This year we had 34 public events.  

What's been your favourite community event?  

I have two from this year’s Neighbours Day events. A group of young people living together downtown near Cuba Street organised a long table on the street. They managed to get donations from some local companies and invited everyone to a street breakfast.  

Another was a Hāngī organised in Newlands by Ngā Hau e Whā o Paparārangi Marae. The group invited the community to come with their neighbours to plant trees, play children’s activities, check out the displays of other community organisations, and enjoy conversation and hāngī meals together.

Mark Noyes with a group of other people at a community event, standing around a table setup on a street with coffee, plants and food.

What's been the most emotive event you’ve been involved in?   

I was part of the recovery team that helped the community after the Tapu Te Ranga Marae was destroyed by fire. This was their home and their anchor that they had grown up with, and now it was gone. What could we possibly do to fix their whole world being burnt down? I found it was important we listened and supported them so that they had the time and space to rebuild. 

What else has your job taught you? 

Patience. I’m only just seeing the true positive impact of projects I began when I first started, and that’s okay. Truly impactful change takes time and is founded on the relationships and trust that you build.   

What do you do to take your mind of work and chillax?

Exploring, cooking, eating, and playing with my partner and six-year-old daughter. And to reground, I enjoy spending time out in our local forests and hills, and taking bikepacking expeditions.