The kiwifruit industry’s next leaders will bring a breadth of experience to their future roles, with the selection of four strong candidates to the Industry Governance Development Programme (IGDP).
Kiritapu Allan, Debbie Oakley, Colleen Neville and Ngaire Scott have been selected for the programme, which is part-funded by Zespri and designed to give candidates a solid grounding in governance, strategy and risk.
It’s the second intake of the programme, after it was established two years ago. John Cook, Chairman of the programme committee, said the four shone through in an impressive field of nine.
“Our intention was to have three in the programme but we ended up with four absolutely outstanding candidates and felt it was appropriate to put four people through,” John said. “Diversity is becoming more and more part of industry leadership, as the industry matures and evolves, and we’ve got strong diversity across these four as well, even though it’s purely coincidental they’re all female.”
Whakatane-based Kiritapu Allan, who grew up on kiwifruit orchards around Paengaroa and Te Puna, has a commercial law background. She is on the executive of the Māori Kiwifruit Growers Forum and was one of the founding governors of the Te Kaha Landowners Group Limited Partnership. She is also running for Labour in the East Coast seat in this year’s election and can see mutual benefits in both her political and IGDP roles.
“Zespri’s a really important company for Brand New Zealand and the work it’s doing to promote us in the global sphere is quite significant,” Kiritapu explained. “I’m looking forward to learning from the Zespri directors to see how they’ve created the brand and get a greater appreciation for how decisions are made throughout the industry to increase productivity.”
Te Puke’s Debbie Oakley is the Vice-Chairperson on Seeka Growers Limited, a member of the New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Forum and their representative on the Industry Advisory Council, as well as being a director of two companies that own orchards. She has a 35-year background in retail and rural banking, using that career to springboard into various governance roles.
“As a banker, you need to have broad knowledge of numerous retail and rural businesses, whereas now I can solely concentrate on one and get fully involved,” Debbie said. “I want to keep the door open, increase my knowledge and get as much as I can out of this governance programme, which will open up more opportunities in future governance roles.”
Colleen Neville is a chartered accountant and is presently Chief Executive Officer of Te Arawa Group Holdings Limited, based in Rotorua. Te Arawa Group Holding's five priority investment sectors are geothermal, forestry, agribusiness, property and tourism. Since purchasing its first kiwifruit orchard in 2014, Te Arawa Group Holdings have expanded their portfolio of kiwifruit assets due to the particularly bright future of the sector.
"From our organisation's point of view, this programme means we get to have a deeper understanding of the kiwifruit business from a governance and strategic perspective," Colleen said. "Given our continued investment in the sector, we are always seeking to widen our knowledge base and keep abreast of industry developments."
Ngaire Scott is the Chief Financial Officer of Trinity Lands Limited, which harvests kiwifruit from more than 110 hectares, making it one of Zespri’s largest suppliers. She also runs her own consultancy business, based in Tauranga, and is most looking forward to the mentoring aspect of the programme.
“I want an insight into the vision and strategic direction of Zespri,” Ngaire said. “The company is smart and innovative and it’s done really well in terms of leadership, through a really difficult patch. I’ve got huge respect for the leadership and governance of Zespri and I’d like to learn more of that.”
The programme will see the four candidates paired with a Zespri Board member, who will act as a mentor, and incorporate four Institute of Directors courses. There will be media training and participants will also get the opportunity to travel to a key Zespri market or offshore growing region to gain market insight and experience.
John said it wouldn’t just be the kiwifruit marketing giant benefitting from the programme.
“This isn’t a programme designed to specifically bring forward Zespri directors – it’s an industry-wide programme. Our industry has many layers of governance required so this is an investment by Zespri on behalf of the whole industry.”
Photo left to right: Colleen Neville, Debbie Oakley, Kiritapu Allan, Ngaire Scott