On the Job

Hinonga Māngai Māori PSA delegate, Susanne Tapsell is retiring but her legacy at Auckland Council will live on.

Susanne’s first taste of union life was when she was still at school, working as a cinema usher. Full time ushers belonged to a union but Susanne, as a part timer, did not.

At one of the cinemas a cashier was fired over money that was alleged to be missing. Ushers banded together to take her to the union office to get the matter sorted.

“What has stayed with me was the immediate emotional support that was given to that cashier by her colleagues and the practical help they were able to provide her with, as union members,” Susanne recalls.

“I can remember thinking ‘oh, this is what the union does’ and my expectation of that kind of collaborative effort was there from the start.”


Although a longtime union member, Susanne didn’t become really active in the PSA until the Auckland “super city” was created and she was nominated as a delegate.

Since that time, she has contributed to numerous projects, culminating in a paid PSA delegate role in 2019.

She says her proudest achievement is the development of the collective agreement, and in particular clauses she worked on with Te Rūnanga komiti.

“Expanding Te Tiriti statement, equity, acknowledgement of hui , leave for unveilings and miscarriage, and translation of headings are the sections I am most proud of being involved with, along with my colleagues.”

Another huge achievement for the PSA and Auckland Council was the creation of a partnership agreement, which helped create a new workplace culture where the PSA has a positive role.  The creation of the full time PSA delegate roles was critical to this. 

In 2011, the newly formed council was a fractured workplace. But Susanne can see how the agreement is now embedded in the way people interact with each other.

“The key to good outcomes is collaboration based on genuine networks.”


Susanne’s PSA networks have been integral to her career and role as a delegate. 

“Being able to attend Hui Taumata and meet fabulous people from across Aotearoa has been such a major support for me. A delegate has to have that awhi to be able to do the work they do.”

Susanne’s mahi was recognised by Te Rūnanga o Nga Toa Āwhina in 2018, when she received the inaugural Marlene Pitman Award for her lifelong service to Māori workers.

PSA President and Auckland Council delegate Benedict Ferguson paid tribute to her huge contribution.

“Her fierce, dry wit and unlimited manaakitanga meant she was the go-to person for everyone. She leaves our delegate team at Auckland Council with massive shoes to fill. Go well, sister!”

Auckland Council’s Customer and Community Services director Dr Claudia Wyss also thanked Susan for the wonderful support she has given to the council and its staff.

 Main picture caption: Susanne Tapsell (left) with former colleague Sonja Lister

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