by LYNDSAY FREER
After 15 years as general manager of New Zealand’s largest Catholic diocese, Auckland, Kerry Coleman has decided that the time has come for him to move on to pursue other interests and opportunities. Educated at Auckland’s Sacred Heart College and Auckland University, Mr Coleman came to Auckland diocese from a background and experience in property.
After beginning his career in rural valuation and farm management, he moved in the 1980s with his family to Hong Kong, spending three years working in the property market.
Back in Auckland he moved to Bayley’s Corporation as an associate director, for the next 13 years setting up a professional services group of property valuers and managers and a research and consulting group.
In 2001 he took up appointment as general manager of the Catholic Diocese of Auckland, where his experience and faith came together to look after the financial and property resources of the diocese. In subsequent years the diocese centralised and streamlined its administration, becoming strategically growth focused, divesting surplus assets to plan
for increased educational requirements and to furthering its commitment to caring projects.
Mr Coleman said that one of his concerns when he took on the job was that he might lose contact with the world of business, but that hadn’t happened.
“In this role one is constantly working with people in many areas of business, corporate and charitable life.
“This is because I came into the biggest diocese in the country, where I was dealing with a very large enterprise comprising substantial property assets. There are 67 parishes and 58 schools in the diocese. Currently there are 25,000 students in our Catholic schools in the
diocese,” Mr Coleman said.
Ongoing upgrading of systems and processes and an overhaul of financial structures restored the diocese to a sound financial footing, better able to support pastoral, social and educational activities.
Mr Coleman noted that the diocese relies on the ongoing financial contribution of parishioners.
“A key inspiration for me,” he said, “has been to see the wonderful, voluntary work done in our parishes to assist people in real need. Parishes are the interface of Catholics to our society, often under the radar and unsung.”
Several key achievements have been:
•Catholic dioceses committing to a national insurance procurement which totals today about $3.5 billion of replacement value. Economies of scale has enabled competitive premium costs.
•Development of diocesan IT infrastructure into a strong platform that ensures efficient communication and collaboration with diocesan agencies.
•The embracing of management of risk, health and safety and the management of seismic standards of diocesan buildings.
Mr Coleman said some of the other challenges have been the introduction of charities legislation to bring a more rigorous administration of charities, the upgrading of the financial markets conduct legislation, a large increase in immigration and full rolls at diocesan schools.
Immigration has brought rich diversity to the Auckland Church, Mr Coleman said, and the diocese provides chaplaincy services to many ethnic communities and helps them to integrate into parish and school life.
“The rolls of our Catholic schools in the diocese, through the leadership of our school principals and staff, are largely operating at capacity,” he said.
“This says much about the quality of our primary and secondary education, with its emphasis on Catholic values and principles, and pastoral outreach into our communities.”
The diocese has built six new schools in the past 15 years: St Pauls Catholic Primary in Massey, Sancta Maria Catholic Secondary School at Flat Bush, Sancta Maria Catholic Primary
school at Flat Bush, Stella Maris Catholic primary school at Silverdale, Owairaka Catholic Primary School, Christ the King, which was rebuilt under a Public Works Act agreement with Transit New Zealand.
“We also located a new Monte Cecilia Catholic Primary School to parish land in Hillsborough Rd, again facilitated under a Public Works Act agreement with Auckland Council.”
Several new churches have also been built, he said: St John the Evangelist at Orewa and St Therese at Mangere East.
The church of Christ the King at Owairaka was rebuilt, and a new church at Flat Bush is planned.
“Also shortly to commence is a new church at Moerewa [in the mid-north], and a new school is about to be built at Takanini with a secondary Catholic College in the final planning stages at Drury.”
Mr Coleman said the diocese is indebted to Diocese Administration Board members, who bring top class expertise and governance to all the activities of our diocese and advice to the bishop.
“The diversity of my work as general manager has been very stimulating with its variety of financial and property matters, social work, pastoral and educational activities and I am grateful to have had the support and commitment of our 94 fulltime and part-time staff.
Our diocesan office has been a finalist in the JRA ‘best places to work’ survey.”
He said he has great admiration for the leadership provided by Bishop Patrick Dunn to the people of what is a geographically largely dispersed diocese, from the Coromandel to Franklin
to the Far North — all places to which had travelled extensively.
Bishop Dunn said that under Mr Coleman’s management and leadership, with his extensive background in property, investment and strategic asset planning in New Zealand and overseas, the Church in Auckland has been well served in planning and meeting future
“As for the future,” Mr Coleman said, “I plan to have more time for family and personal interests, with an emphasis on agribusiness governance and property, and also having an opportunity to support the business enterprises of the younger members of my family.”