Take a Seat in Parnell | Jillian de Beer and Jerome Partington

Jillian de Beer, Thinker, Strategist, Collaborative Innovator and Parnell Resident interviews Jerome Partington, Associate Principal – Sustainability Manager, Jasmax.


I am a Global Thinker, Strategist and Collaborative Innovator. Throughout my career I have made authentic connections, built real relationships, and fostered strong networks across different cultures and mindsets around the world.

I work with, inspire, and enable individuals, organisations, peer networks and communities to reimagine their operations and stakeholder engagement, aspire “to be” and to articulate and make change for a renewed and more positive future.

I have written strategic plans for leading Global and New Zealand brands, and guided brand positioning, business expansion and transformation strategy for corporates, SMEs, start-ups and social enterprise – predominantly in professional and financial services, across diverse subsectors and interdisciplinary contexts, the creative industries and creative technologies.

I’m a strategist and advisor to government entities and councils for regions, cities, CBDs, towns, urban centres and rural communities throughout New Zealand.  This includes strategic business and economic development plans; place identity; destination marketing plans; humanity-centred design; protection of place-based cultural ecologies and communities, Māori cultural creativity, the framework and governance for iconic festivals and events, the arts and culture and the creative sector.

I have been a winner, and judge of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) Gold Quill awards for excellence in organisation brand identity and communication leadership, and a keynote speaker at economic, professional and changemaker summits on the cultural landscape, creativity and innovation (in USA, Canada, Central and Eastern Europe, Australia and New Zealand).

I established IncrediblEdge, a platform for ideas and knowledge sharing, attracting entrepreneurs, innovators and changemakers from around the world.

My favourite way of spending free time is probably reading in the sanctuary of my creative space, in an early sea captain’s cottage in Parnell (I’m currently reading, “The Road to Home” by Vartan Gregorian).

Jillian: I have been very fortunate in my life. I’ve met extraordinary people in diverse fields and cultures, living incredible experiences in different parts of the world. Through my life journey I have been able to realise my inner passion – being connected with people locally and globally, and being enriched by experiences.

Jerome, you’re an Associate Principal – Sustainability Manager at Jasmax. You qualified as an architect in the UK, are an accredited NZGBC Green Star Professional Chair of the Living Future Aotearoa NZ Living Building Challenge. You have worked in architectural practices and education for twenty years, and as such are one of the leading sustainability specialists in the country. Where along this journey did your focus on sustainability really begin?

Jerome: Gosh – quite young, I am really motivated by equality and social outcomes. I passionately abhor waste, and always understood how key papatūānuku – nature, is central to our wellbeing and ability to thrive or survive. Ecological design and the built environment are positive areas to engage these issues.

Jillian: Describe your role at Jasmax?

Jerome: Jasmax is Design Excellence led, with a focus on carbon, regenerative design and delivering buildings and spaces as a positive legacy. My role is multifaceted, managing and reducing Jasmax’s environmental footprint; working with clients and stakeholders to create energy efficient, green buildings that are comfortable and inviting for users to occupy; and collaborating with the industry to advance thinking on building and city design.

You know one of my favourite memories of Parnell was watching Elton John doing press-ups on the roof of the White Heron Hotel, in 1980. (I lived next door).

Jillian de Beer

Jillian: What is the most exciting project you have worked on while at Jasmax?

Jerome: I love projects that deliver positive outcomes for people and nature. The recently completed apartments at 26 Aroha in Sandringham are a perfect example, offering a modern super social, low carbon approach to the Aotearoa lifestyle.  Ngai Tūhoe’s Te Kura Whare Headquarters near Whakatane was also a really rewarding project to work on. Guided by Tūhoe principles and values, Te Kura Whare was a co- journey of discovery that led to a global leading certified Living Building, generating its own renewable energy, water and waste systems, made from local materials without toxic chemicals.

Jillian: You are passionate about Living Buildings, is that a future trend in architecture?

Jerome: The resources on our planet are finite and we run our economy using up this ‘living capital’. We need to adopt radically different ways of living, working, travelling and building if we are to respond to the climate threat and sustain an eco-system where people and nature can thrive. 

Living Buildings provide a new thinking, a new approach to the built environment that supports the wellbeing of people and nature equally. Living Buildings meet their own needs locally – for energy and water, grow food, don’t use toxic products, offset impacts to be zero carbon, support the local economy and yet are beautiful and human scaled. They are reflective of their local place and culture too. Living Buildings are just minimum compliance for a thriving green economy and a healthy future.

Jillian: One of the things that frustrates me about Auckland is the poured concrete and sameness, the loss of heritage buildings, natural green space and places of cultural enrichment – causing subsequent loss of cultural wayfinders, the loss of embedded memory and loss of our human stories.

Parnell is well known for Parnell Village and being a historic coastal suburb with sea views. The Foundation is a stunning place, with exceptional architecture and the open café/courtyard is one of Auckland’s most beautiful meeting places. 

Faraday Street has a wonderful sense of place and discovery. A beautiful area enhanced by architecture and aspirational businesses, refined and slightly industrial, with a tinge of grunge. I think the understated atmosphere is its X-Factor.

Jillian de Beer

Jillian: What do you feel about the architecture in Parnell – from the historic landmarks to the converted villas and later the more recent office complexes and apartments?

I love living and working in Parnell! I like the human scale, the wild mix of historic buildings, plus the 50’s and 70’s office and apartment insertions too, along with the plethora of trees, gardens and reserves with a little bit of cooky here and there.

Jerome Partington

Jillian: You know one of my favourite memories of Parnell was watching Elton John doing press-ups on the roof of the White Heron Hotel, in 1980 (I lived next door). The Pointer Sisters and many other famous entertainers stayed there. It was pulled down in 2002 and with that disappeared some special remnants of history.

How do you think Parnell is transforming?

Jerome: Hmm – The recent building trends are often more industrial scale. More function dressed up as architecture, the Unitary Plan is at work now and we are seeing taller buildings and full lot coverage, which is good to get more people living in this neighbourhood. We just need to review this to make sure we retain the greenspace, amenity, views and historic character for which Parnell is renowned.

Jillian: yes we need to make sure in the process we do not cause the displacement of unique, entrepreneurial family-owned businesses by those businesses that are based on globalised, generic standardisation, replication, and are lost leaders.

I mentor young entrepreneurs, tertiary students and emerging artists. Being able to grow and nurture young talented people and help them in their life journey is a privilege. If there is something I would like to be known for it would be that I made a positive difference to other people’s lives, business, the planet and community. How do you think we can develop a more holistic way of seeing the world and who are the community and creative industries driving the process of change?

Jerome: I think a holistic viewpoint is innate in all of us, we just need to bring that thinking to how we work, and how we design our cities and communities. Having the right mind set and tools is really important to enable the shift to ‘whole value creation’.

Everyone – business, locals, Council, visitors and of course papatūānuku make up the community here and need to be involved! Jasmax is local and we are actively invested in creating the kind of future we want in Parnell.

Jillian: What about regeneration? How do we play our part in Parnell?

Jerome: Regeneration can mean social gentrification, a sort of improved makeover. When I talk about regeneration, I mean something a little different.

To me, regeneration means looking beyond a new building or development to considers its role, its impacts and its relationships with its whole system – the site, occupants, local community and ecology. Going further, it’s about enabling teams and projects to see the potential to unlock intergenerational value – how can we stimulate local businesses and people to play their critical role – to take care, Kaitiakitanga (steward) of themselves and plants, trees and wildlife who call this place home? This kind of thinking is true regenerative development.

Jillian: I have lived in Parnell for many years. I have experienced a community made up of beautiful people, friendly and hospitable. In some cases, they are extended family.

There is a lot of generosity and giving. They really care. I love the secret parks like Alberon Reserve and the sculpture walk in The Domain. But my favourite spot is the highpoint of the grass slope that extends to the cliff edge, near St Stephens Chapel in Judges Bay. It provides a great sense of place and enables a beautiful view of the sea and greater harbour.

How do we keep these meaningful and inclusive spaces in Parnell?

Jerome: The parks and reserves and streets are critical community infrastructure.

 If we’re thinking about a local reserve in Parnell, I would ask what value could it offer as a place for people to take local action for a thriving future? Consider growing food, flowers and fruit, composting organic waste, managing stormwater, sequester carbon by mulching and growing more trees, support more bird and insect life, bees, peace and quiet, a meeting place, teaching and learning, mental health, generate local energy.

 I would like to see drought-resistant local olive groves for the good oil and yes, of course still places to walk our dogs!

Jillian: What did you observe as the lessons of Covid?

Jerome: Covid has been a great wake-up call!  It shone a light on inequality and other issues in our societies. Relatively speaking here in New Zealand, we have bounced back and retained huge freedom and quality of life. The speed with which we have been able to adjust makes me optimistic about the positive changes we can make to the way we live, work and travel to help protect ourselves and nature. Imagine if we upheld the natural order and put the health of nature first, then society, and then development and business. We would really be able to sustain ourselves and our culture for many, many generations

Jillian: Yes I agree. Every business has to treat itself as a start-up (post Covid), and adopt continual innovation. We are now transitioning into the new economy. Every individual person must reimagine and maintain balance.

You need to be service orientated, providing customised and individualised services that are personal. (Gladstone Road café and shops are rock stars. They know their guests and customers and go above and beyond).

Businesses need to operate in harmony, to ensure Parnell is a vital, meaningful and memorable destination experience that guests want to return to and tell their family and friends about. They also need to be creative and outwardly facing, presenting a sense of welcome beyond the footpath – with experimental and contemporary art.  Parnell Road could be a lot more studio-based, collaborative, extrovert and engaging in spirit. The village needs to attract people and keep them coming back as actors in the place experience.

Elevate “to be” above “to do”. Be relevant.

Lastly, in closing, the best piece of advice I have ever received was “You can change the grain on the desk each day, but it is the difference you have made beyond the walls that matters”.

What is yours?

Jerome: I have two!

If you want to go fast – go alone. If you want to go far, travel together.

There are no experts, we are only co-learners on the journey of creating life!

TOP PHOTO CAPTION: Jerome Partington and Jillian de Beer photographed in Parnell Village on Cirql dining chairs by Dedon available from Dawson & Co.

ARTICLE: as published in The Verve, March 2021. 


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