Who is Jill Day?
A teacher, scientist and stay-at-home mum from Tawa is now Wellington’s deputy mayor.
A stay-at-home mum, a teacher, a scientist – and now Wellington’s deputy mayor.
Jill Day’s career could have gone in many directions, but it’s clear the Tawamumof three is now in her element as a Wellington city councillor.
All that’s missing from her life is a dog – she’s desperate for a furry friend to join her family.
The first-time councillor was elected last October, and last week took over the deputy mayor mantle from Paul Eagle.
The 38-year-old is the first Ma¯ori woman selected for the deputy role in Wellington’s history. She ran for the council because she wanted to do more for Wellingtonians in need – especially young people and families.
‘‘That’s who I will always prioritise in the work I do as deputy mayor,’’ she says.
Born in Palmerston North, Day has lived in Christchurch, and moved to Wellington when she was 14. She lives in Tawa with her husband and children, aged 8, 11 and 13, and was a stay-at-home mumfor 10 years.
It was a big change for her family when she became a councillor, and now they are adjusting to the ‘‘big deal’’ of being the deputy mayor.
‘‘It’s been a bit of a journey for my family, but they are really excited and supportive.’’
She credits the ‘‘amazing support network’’ in the Tawa community for helping her get where she is. ‘‘I built a strong community around me and have close friends who made this job possible. It’s a big adjustment for my children, and all the people in the area have helped.’’
Although Day always wanted to be a teacher, her father, who was a careers guidance counsellor, advised her to get something else under her belt. Taking his advice, she gained a degree in biochemistry and molecular biology before going back to teaching.
She stopped teaching to start her family, but stayed in contact with the education world when she became the president of a play centre. ‘‘That was the start of my leadership journey.’’
When her youngest daughter went to school, she worked a parttime job for three years, helping children who were falling behind with reading. She managed the Bikes in Schools programme and started to lobby her local councillor, Justin Lester, who urged her to run in the council elections.
‘‘I started seeing changes in our education system and I wanted to do something about it. I’d love to start having conversations with the Ministry of Education and will be making contact with schools – it’s important we have those conversations about opportunities.’’
Often she saw kids with prolonged absence from school or ill health but, when she scratched the surface, she found they were living in damp homes.
Housing is an immediate focus for the council, and she wants to be a voice for people who are struggling. There is desperation in Wellington, she says, and she saw it first-hand when she supported a family who did not have a house for three weeks and were living in a campsite.
‘‘It’s scary and should not happen in New Zealand. We need to up the game with housing - supply, affordability and quality. It’s a huge challenge but it’s exciting to be part of a council that wants to take that on.’’
During council debates, Day is often quiet but says she believes in speaking when she is needed and when she can influence.
‘‘Sometimes people will talk just to fill space, and I am comfortable only talking when I need to, and people will listen.’’
Affiliated with Nga¯ti Tu¯wharetoa, Day says her links have shaped who she is, and she takes pride in the relationships she has built with mana whenua since being elected.
She has been learning Ma¯ori for four years, but is yet to become fluent.
During October’s election, she ran as an independent candidate, but ‘‘it’s pretty clear I’m a leftleaning political being’’.
She hasn’t thought about joining her Labour colleagues, but has not ruled it out.
First-term councillor Jill Day, who has been on Wellington City Council for less than a year, has been appointed deputy mayor.