A Whanganui woman and another with close local affiliations have been inducted into the New Zealand Business Hall of Fame.

Pam Williams, Founder of Wanganui Trawlers Ltd, and Mavis Mullins who started in shearing and has many directorships and involvements, were honoured at a ceremony held last month at Auckland's Langham Hotel.

The Hall of Fame recognises individuals who have made a significant contribution to the economic and social development of the country.

Ms Williams' granddaughter Lydia MacLean read aloud the citation while grandson Daniel Truss escorted his grandmother on to the stage. Both grandchildren are studying at Wanganui Collegiate School.

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Ms Williams was a businesswoman who was at the forefront of the country's fishing industry for about 30 years.

She was Managing Director and Founder of Wanganui Trawlers Ltd, later Wanganui Seafoods, one of the NZ's largest vertically integrated seafood companies exporting to 16 countries.

Grand-daughter Lydia Maclean, daughter Nicola Williams, grand-daughter Jessica O'Brien, daughter Philippa Williams, Pam Williams, grandson Zachary O'Brien, Sarah Lyons, grandson Daniel Truss.
Grand-daughter Lydia Maclean, daughter Nicola Williams, grand-daughter Jessica O'Brien, daughter Philippa Williams, Pam Williams, grandson Zachary O'Brien, Sarah Lyons, grandson Daniel Truss.

She continued her philanthropy and commercial involvement in Wanganui co-founding five other business's including Air Wanganui Ltd.

She was Chair of the Fisheries Authority Committee and awarded a NZ Suffrage Centennial award for her contribution to the NZ Fishing Industry and a QSO for her contribution to business and ACC.

In an earlier interview the very private Mrs Williams told the Chronicle she was also "uncomfortable" about being inducted. She has always shunned the limelight, preferring to get on with the job and not doing it for public recognition.

She was born to a farming family in the Waitotara Valley but after farming on her own account in the mid-1960s she was looking for investment opportunities. The government of the time was pushing development of the fishing industry and, with the potential in the fishery off the Taranaki bight, she decided to buy a fishing trawler.

She took her idea to her lawyer, Gordon Swan, who decided to back her launching Wanganui Trawlers Ltd. This duo created an extraordinarily successful business relationship spanning more than five decades.

More trawlers joined the fleet and soon all local fishermen were selling their catch under contract to Wanganui Trawlers, including some New Plymouth and Wellington boats. As more boats were taken on, the business moved into bigger premises with some of its processed fish being exported to Australia and then beyond.

Wanganui Trawlers expanded its processing plant at Castlecliff, building a 3000-tonne capacity coldstore and then a new processing plant. Later about 30 squid jiggers were added from Japan, coming every season, and another joint venture partnership with a Russian company was formed.

The company, now renamed Wanganui Seafoods, was ranked the sixth largest fish quota holder in New Zealand, and within the Deloitte 200 largest privately owned companies exporting to 16 countries. Its Castlecliff factory employed about 200 staff with many more working at sea.

From the company's inception through until the 1980s there were very few women in high positions in New Zealand business so it was not unusual for her to be the only woman at the many business functions. She succeeded not only in what was then a very tough industry, but also one that was completely male dominated.

And she is dismissive of any suggestion about gender being an impediment in industry. She refused to accept numerous nominations for awards - even the Business Woman of the Year - arguing she made her mark on her own abilities and hard work regardless of gender.

"They regarded me as something of a curiosity. When I asked one Korean businessman the name of his wife he said, 'She does not have a name. She is my possession'. I've never forgotten that.

"I think the fact I was a woman had its advantages because at times I think they looked on me a some kind of queer specimen."

In 1994 Wanganui Seafoods was sold to Sanford for $36.5 million. Mrs Williams said they considered Sanford was the best contender as far as job security of the company staff was concerned.

Sanford's price was not the highest bid and later Mrs Williams said she deeply regretted this choice as Sanfords asset-stripped the company and closed the doors in Whanganui.

Mrs Williams said the decision to set up the business in Whanganui was a given from the start and there was never a time when they considered relocating to a bigger centre.

"All of those involved in it were Whanganui people and staunchly patriotic. It wasn't easy - certainly for the ships using the port it was difficult and at times it seemed almost impossible but we managed to work around it."

Her company leased the port and took over the running of it through a subsidiary, Ocean Terminals - it was the first privately run port in the country.

"We had a very good staff who were very loyal and dedicated. It was huge deal when New Zealand decided to claim its 200-mile exclusive economic zone. Before that it was all foreigners fishing our waters.

"But that change left the way open for our involvement - the way was there to get cracking and do something."

The second laureate with connections to Whanganui was Mavis Mullins, who is involved in a number of governance roles, which include the chair of Atihau Whanganui Incorporation, Poutama Trust and involvement with well-known innovators like 2Degrees.

Mavis Mullins
Mavis Mullins

Born and raised locally, Mavis has many notable achievements in her career, not only through the wool handling industry where she is well known and respected but also on the international business stage.

After achieving an MBA degree through Massey University, the Mullins' family business, Paewai Mullins Shearing, was the first in its industry to achieve ISO 9002 accreditation, and this was a world first in this sector.

Ms Mullins is also a member of Nga Whenua Rahui, preserving the matauranga, history and stories associated with privately-owned Maori land.

Each inductee was interviewed by Michael Barnett, chief executive of the Auckland Regional Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

During her interview, Mavis spoke of her inquisitiveness and how that supported her in the roles that she had undertaken.

Ms Mullins was named Business Woman of the Year at the University of Auckland Māori Business Leaders Awards and has attained numerous roles and awards highlighted by an MNZM for services to the wool industry in the Queen's Birthday Honours of 2002.

In 2015 Mavis was made honorary associate of UCOL.