A New Champion for Dementia | Cathy Cooney new CEO for Dementia New Zealand

A Health Professional with extensive executive leadership experience, and a track record of working for her community has been named the new CEO for Dementia New Zealand.

Cathy Cooney received an MNZM in 2021 for her commitment and dedication to health and the community, most recently the Chair of InterRAI New Zealand Governance Board and Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology Board. Mrs Cooney – says our health system owes it to our community of people living with dementia and their families/carers to deliver the support they need.

Mrs Cooney will be especially focussed on working with the newly formed Te Whatu Ora (Health NZ) Dementia Mate Wareware Leadership and Advisory Group established to improve the health and quality of life of people living with dementia.

“Aotearoa New Zealand desperately needs an integrated, nation-wide suite of services that improves the quality of life of people living with dementia mate wareware and also reduces dementia’s impact on our health system.”

Dementia New Zealand’s recent high-profile association with ex All Black Carl Hayman (National Dementia Champion) as part of its ‘Light in the Darkness’ campaign emphasises that this is not just a condition affecting the elderly.

“Carl showed incredible courage to be the face of ‘Light in the Darkness’ and sharing his journey with dementia. I want to show that same commitment in leading what Dementia New Zealand needs to deliver to its wide and varied community.

“A key element of that will be enabling our fantastic Dementia New Zealand Affiliates[1] to deliver their meaningful activities and services on the frontline – leveraging their knowledge, passion and experience,” says Mrs Cooney.

DNZ Chairperson Jocelyn Weatherall says Mrs Cooney’s interest in and support for dementia services demonstrates the importance of these services for our communities.

“We know that our ageing population will lead to an exponential growth in demand for support for our older people and their whānau and friends who are coping with dementia.

“Our services are working hard to try to deliver what is desperately needed now with insufficient funding,” says Weatherall.


Dementia in New Zealand

  • Around 70,000 Kiwis are living with Dementia today.
  • As we live longer, this number is expected to more than double by 2050.
  • This will directly affect more than 10 percent of over 65-year-olds.
  • Carers of people with dementia provide nearly 53 million hours per year of unpaid care
  • Already four out of five New Zealanders know or have known someone living with dementia.
  • Dementia is the catchall phrase for progressive degenerative brain diseases including Alzheimer’s, Vascular dementia, Fronto Temporal and Lewy body dementia. It is an invisible disability that over time can affect memory, thinking, communication, mood and behaviour.

[1] Regional organisations providing expert information, education and support for carers as well as therapeutic programmes for people living with dementia.


About Catherine Cooney

Cathy Cooney is a Registered Nurse and brings an extensive range of expertise to her role. Cathy was Chief Executive of the Lakes District Health Board from 2001 to 2012. From 2016-2022, Cathy has chaired the InterRAI New Zealand Leadership and Advisory Board and the Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology Board. She has facilitated the national workforce planning for the Kaiāwhina care and support workforce from 2012-2022. Cathy is a Fellow and Censor of College of Nurses Aotearoa, a Fellow and National Council President of the Australasian College of Health Service Management – Aotearoa. She is also very involved in her home community of Rotorua. Cathy was made a member of the New Zealand order of merit for services to health and community in the 2021 Queens Birthday Honours.