Jenn Benden


As a Director, my focus at Xyst is across parks and recreation consulting, business development, managing staff, and strategic direction. I grew up in Vancouver, Canada, have lived and worked in Australia, and now live in New Zealand.

My specialist areas are strategic planning for parks, sport and community facilities, as well as project management and business cases. My strength is finding pathways through difficult waters for my clients and the communities I serve, and generating buy-in for the preferred way forward. I am tenacious for the common good and seek clearly communicated solutions that everyone can understand and embrace. I love working with passionate community members, and my goal is to always find that next step forward and back it up with clear evidence-based reporting.

You can contact me for help with

  • Sport and recreation planning
  • Recreation Assessments
  • Needs Assessments
  • Feasibility and business cases
  • Open space and community advice for large projects
  • Multi-disciplinary project management
  • Community infrastructure and park strategies
  • Community/Stakeholder engagement
  • Workshop facilitation

My expertise

My love for the parks and recreation industry began with my role as an Assistant Recreation Coordinator in Canada. I moved to Aotearoa New Zealand in 2010 and have held various roles in both technical and managerial capacities across local government, RSO and club management, business and consultancy. I have held project management portfolio roles, overseeing 55+ projects at any one time.  My time spent working in large, global, multi-disciplinary firms has given me key experience working on design and strategy projects with disciplines such as climate change, engineering, landscape architecture, social value economists, and more.

I am a keen advocate for my industry, volunteering in many governance roles, including Chair of the Generate Network, Board Director for World Urban Parks, and I am currently Chair of the Recreation Aotearoa Canterbury Committee. I won two awards early in my career, Emerging Recreation Leader of the Year and a Merit Award for the Generate Network while I was Chair.


  • Bachelor Sport and Recreation Management, Lincoln University


  • Accredited Recreation Professional, ARPro
  • Better Business Cases Practitioner
  • IAP2 public participation theory, planning, methods and techniques, International Association for Public Participation

Xyst in action

One of my passions is ensuring that written documents result in action for communities.  When I began work on the Sumner Skate Park Site Selection Study, I understood that the community had requested this project in 1989, but by 2014 there was still no skate park. Two different sites had been progressed but were scrapped following consenting issues. My goal was to find the site that would make it through consenting and deliver a result for a community that had been disappointed by the process in the past.

I considered 51 different sites to find the one which would be feasible and included considering a number of consenting factors as well as skating community needs. The preferred site received huge support from the community and was built in 2022.



Along with Yardstick, our international benchmarking program for local government, if you need research to make good decisions, we can get it for you

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Play Spaces

From redevelopments to new builds, our children need safe, fun play spaces to get them outside for fresh air and exercise

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My Projects

Community Facilities Strategy

The Community Facilities Strategy (CFS) provided direction for decision making, development and management of community facilities in the Waikato District, including tasks such as investment

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