Ms Nellie Lester is an Independent Development Consultant. She was Deputy Director General, at the Department of Cooperative Governance formerly Department of Provincial and Local Government (dplg) from July 2007 to February 2012. She has previously served as General Manager at Housing Development Agency and DBSA Infrastructure Planning and Delivery Division. Nellie also served on the board of South African Cities Network and Housing Development Agency at the nomination of the Minister. She was the Executive Director at Planact from July 2002 to March 2006 and has experience in intergovernmental relations.

She holds a master's degree in urban and rural planning from Dalhousie University, Canada. In 1995 she joined the University of Cape Town as a senior lecturer at the School of Architecture and Planning. From 1997-1999 she was employed as senior planner at the City of Cape Town, Planning and Economic Department. She is a member of South Africa Planners Institute (SAPI).

During her time at Planact she initiated the documentation of the organisations history in support of the civil society urban agenda. This initiative resulted in a book publication titled “Making Cities Work for the Poor” the Plan Act Way. Her interests remain in inclusive spatial development and positive transformation of deprived communities in both urban and rural areas. The “Township Transformation Timeline” study is one of the notable projects she coordinated while heading the Urban Renewal Programme pilot at the Department of Cooperative Governance.

In 2010, she facilitated the conceptualisation and coordinated the “Cities Month” exhibition for the South African pavilion at the Shanghai World Urban Expo under the theme ‘Better City Better Life”. The South African Pavilion recorded the million mark visitor numbers during the Cities month in June. The reflections on SA Cities month at Shanghai World Expo2010 have been published as a record for future reference.

Nellie worked in advisory capacity to the South African Cities Network on secondment from COGTA. She was instrumental in the finalization of the State of South African Cities Report 2011 titled “Towards Resilient Cities”. International activities include presentations at OECD conference in Cologne, Germany, World Bank workshop in Involuntary Resettlement, Brasilia. She was a Board member of the Habitat International Coalition and represented the organisation in World Urban Forum in Barcelona, Spain in 2004 and Vancouver, Canada in 2006.

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