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KiC People in Profile: Celia Wells

by Nick Morrison, KiC Convenor

On (yet another…) Auckland rainy day, I met with Celia Wells at Williams Eatery in Wynyard Quarter, not far from her place of work at GNS, Te Pū Ao. 

It’s a job title with seven, yes seven, words… Socio-economic Policy Specialist in Climate and Energy. 

So who is Celia?

When I asked Celia how she came to work in a job with a seven-word title, and being a Kiwis in Climate Convenor, she started by saying she is a Political Science graduate from Otago University and it is her fascination with political-economy and wicked problems that drew her into the climate space. She also reflected that growing up in rural Aotearoa, with a father who is a passionate earth systems geologist contributed to her landing in a geological research institute.

At GNS Celia is a generalist who works with specialists across the Environment and Climate, and Energy Futures research themes (GNS terms). There are opportunities to be involved with Antarctic research, coastal adaptation projects, and green hydrogen research and so much more, but she mostly tries to focus on work related to climate change mitigation. For example, she was part of a small team that just secured significant funding from MBIE to monitor urban carbon emissions, with the purpose of informing better urban planning. 

Get Celia talking about Geothermal energy and you are in for a fascinating conversation.

It’s an area in which Celia has a wealth of knowledge and passion. Did you know the city of Munich is on track to convert 85% of the city to low-temperature geothermal district energy schemes?

It’s largely driven by the changing Geopolitics of Europe but surely Aotearoa wants to follow a similar lead and achieve energy sovereignty? 

Being a KiC Convenor

Celia is one of the first tranche of KiC convenors that was formed in late 2022 and that have been responsible for producing our purpose and values, and slowly but surely improving our systems, and connections.

Celia was recruited for the fledgling KiC leadership group thanks to Bryce Groves (who was present as our resident photographer) and a conversation she had with him as part of his Leading Change for Good post-grad project at The Mind Lab - a piece of work that has a profound impact on this group. When I asked Celia how to describe her time as part of KiC she started by sharing her belief that “this group could explode”. 

Although she stressed that she didn’t want to see the evolution of the group forced. “We want the right group of people and the right energy to grow it sustainably.”

“The Convenors have been diligently putting in place the necessary governance and structure to ensure it can achieve its potential. It’s not been fast but I believe it’s setting up a really robust foundation.”

She spoke of the enjoyment she has had through her connection with the other convenors and the group more broadly, and the sense of satisfaction working with other like-minded individuals all keen to make a positive impact through their various endeavours in the climate and sustainability space around the globe.

A particular sense of satisfaction came for Celia from the impact of the 'Oil Blacks' letter. Described as a “hustler” in a recent work strengths assessment Celia cold emailed a vast number of well-known Kiwis to ask them to sign the letter. One key individual, who headlined many of the resulting news articles, was Neil Finn. We love you Neil! 

Moving on

Sadly Celia’s time as a Convenor will be coming to an end in the coming months. Due to wanting to provide opportunities for others to step up and take the group forward, plus the fact she is relocating to the other side of the world (due to her partner’s new job) she has decided it’s time to bow out.

Celia's short-term plan is to work remotely on a contract basis with a couple of different organisations (on emerging geothermal projects), then once a new base city is decided upon with her and her partner she will be looking for a full-time role. When asked what the ideal job would be she replied “as long as it has impact and aligns with my values.” 

Aotearoa New Zealand

When I asked Celia about what NZ should be focussing on as we navigate the realties of the urgent need to decarbonise and adapt to climate change, she spoke of wanting to see NZ take a leadership position and exporting our expertise. She gave a great example of this already happening with NZ geothermal innovation being adopted all around the world and resulting in significant emissions abatement. “NZ punches above our weight and we should be proud of that. We have a great history of finding unique ways to solve problems. And we are just good people to work with.” 

From all of your fellow Convenors, and fellow KiC members, a huge THANK YOU to you Celia for all the work you have put into helping KiC get to where it is today. We wish you all the very best in this exciting new chapter in your life. Do keep us updated on your European adventure. 


Interview by Nick Morrison Photography by Bryce Groves

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