Barry Coates, Oxfam New Zealand's Executive Director has announced his plans to step down from his role after more than ten years at the helm. Far from taking a break, Mr. Coates has already eyed up his next challenge - politics.
Today Mr. Coates announced his plans to stand as a Green Party candidate in the next general election. He has been accepted into the candidate pool and has signaled his intention to stand as a candidate for one of the Auckland electorates.
With a strong history of involvement in human rights, climate change, foreign affairs and international development, as well as a Master's degree from Yale University, Mr. Coates said he is well-equipped for his new career. "Having affected change within the political system from the outside, this move enables me to affect change from the inside."
He admitted that he is worried about the direction that the current government is taking and reeled off a list of concerns including the rising inequality, extensive child poverty, economic growth which comes at the expense of the environment, fossil fuel extraction and inaction on climate change. "There's really just a complete lack of a vision around what kind of society we could be making."
Mr. Coates said that building on New Zealand's 'clean and green' brand could provide the country with an exciting future. "New Zealand has such a fantastic opportunity. We are one of the countries in the world that could really benefit from being able to demonstrate our credentials on sustainability and we're completely blowing it, in so many ways... We need to transform our economy away from the heavy-polluting commodity-oriented, low-wage economy and towards a high-skill, high value-added sustainable future. That is such a better future for us and will provide better opportunities for our young people."
Addressing climate change will also be a focus for Mr. Coates, who served as both Chair and board member of the Global Campaign for Climate Action. "The urgency is growing and as a society, New Zealand is really neglecting our responsibility to others; to our children and future generations and particularly to some of the vulnerable people here and abroad who will bear the brunt of the costs of climate change."
Mr. Coates says he is feeling "fantastic" about the change and happy to step down at a time when things are going so well for Oxfam New Zealand. "It has been a great privilege to have been able to build and lead a fantastic organisation making powerful change for the most important of causes - tackling global poverty."
Recruitment for Mr. Coates' role began late last week.
Barry Coates talks about fair trade
Over his ten year tenure, Mr. Coates has achieved several notable accomplishments amongst them:
Playing a key role in the mainstreaming and promotion of fair trade and establishing a partnership with fair trade stalwart Trade Aid in 2004 (Fairtrade sales in New Zealand have grown 300 fold over the last decade making our market the fasting growing in the world)
Establishing the Oxfam Trailwaker in 2005, which see teams of 4 walking a gruelling 100 kilometres in 36 hours in a bid to raise money for poverty alleviation (Trailwalker 2013 attracted 1200 people this year, raising almost $1 million dollars)
Ensuring Oxfam have a strategic presence in poorer Pacific nations and helping those countries to improve water and sanitation systems, build the capacity of small-scale farmers, end violence against women and supporting sustainable livelihoods
Setting up, and chairing, the Make Poverty History Aotearoa coalition which saw 50,000 people advocating for an increase in government aid budget
Mr. Coates has also had key roles in peace building and disarmament, encouraging sustainable business practices, climate change advocacy and educating and engaging the public.