Celeste Donovan

Celeste Donovan

City Councillor - Coastal Ward elected 2021



This biography was written by:Ken Bye

Linwood gave Christchurch’s newest City Councillor  the ‘ space ‘ to be herself


The most important gift Linwood gave Christchurch’s newest City Councillor, Celeste Donovan, was a creative, safe environment that gave her the opportunity to be herself and figure out what her future might look like.

Celeste attended Linwood from 1994 to 1997. She came to the school part way through the Fourth Form from Christchurch Girl’s High School. While the quality of the learning available there was high, she found its ethos rather narrow and confining. Celeste freely admits she was not a conscientious student, but enjoyed the creative atmosphere at Linwood which seemed to encourage people to dare to be different and to try new things.  This attitude had been fostered by her experiences at Sumner School and Van Asch College, where she was ‘taught to be fearless, to believe that everyone deserves to be treated equally and that it was OK to explore ideas and original thought.’ Unsurprisingly, in those early years it was not netball that attracted Celeste, but rugby. At Linwood, it was snooker. Under the watchful eye of Alan Parris, Celeste became a key part of Linwood’s first all -female snooker team. Linwood opened doors for Celeste that led to tertiary study; it also gave her the’ confidence to express myself and step out of my comfort zone; to challenge mindsets and stereotypes.

Celeste’s outlook on life meant that her adult pathway was never likely to be a straight-forward, orthodox one. After completing a BA in American Studies at Canterbury University, she followed the example of her brother, and spent three years teaching English in Japan, relishing the challenge and the cultural experience. During this time, Celeste developed a growing interest in major issues affecting New Zealand and the world, in particular human rights and climate change. On her return to New Zealand in 2007, she completed a post graduate diploma in political science at the University of Canterbury, and followed that up with a Masters in International Relations from the Peace and Conflict Centre at the University of Otago. Her particular focus was on the nature and effectiveness of international aid.

Since graduating, Celeste has followed a career pathway that allowed her to use both her academic and communications skills and to follow her passions. She worked for a financial advisor and for the Financial Markets Authority at the time when new legislation was being prepared and introduced to bring more rigour and accountability to the sector. She was then employed by Parliamentary Services and worked with the Green Party as part of an outreach programme, bringing their key messages about climate change community, while having some input at the strategic level. Celeste’s concern with issues affecting the future of the planet then saw her working for VERTIC, an organisation whose goal is to ensure that international agreements in the area of nuclear disarmament and verification are ‘fit for purpose, by analysing them to identify gaps and likely problems in implementation. And since October 2021 Celeste has been the Councillor for the Coastal Ward. For Celeste, it’s been a steep learning curve. As she said, council business is a ‘complex beast.’ She is determined to make a difference. Celeste believes that Christchurch must be ‘brave and innovative ‘if it is to move together towards a safe, healthy, connected future.