Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to business.
Barbara Chapman, who was made a companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit today, says the Government should eliminate the red tape that's holding back entrepreneurs.
"From a business perspective, New Zealand has been described as 'near-paradise'. We are doing spectacularly well on a range of measures, and our problems are often far smaller than those of other countries," the chief executive turned professional director says.
"New Zealand business people are recognised for being transparent and straight-up, we generally have good access to offshore trading partners, and we have a Government who has shown itself to be genuinely willing to listen and support business interests."
But our near-paradise status is at risk if New Zealand fails to unblock the barriers to overseas investment, Chapman says.
"There's no shortage of great ideas and people like Peter Beck who can start something new and get it going," she says.
And there's no shortage of investors offshore who want to back them, she says.
But the Overseas Investment Act (2005) throws up too much red tape, in her opinion - and at a time when other countries with fewer barriers are competing for overseas investors' funds.
"We should be celebrating 500 Rocket Lab-type success stories, not just one or two. But our regulations around overseas investment make this challenging," Chapman says.
"When you use the term 'overseas investment', people think about the Crafar Farms and buying up large parcels of land," she says.
"But there are lots of good entrepreneurial investments that don't challenge what it means to be a New Zealander."
Chapman says 2019 will see her continue her transition from management to the boardroom.
The former ASB chief executive now holds directorships at Fletcher Building, IAG and Herald publisher NZME, and chairs power company Genesis.
She will also have the opportunity to chip in on policy in the New Year, both inside the beltway as a recently appointed member of the panel reviewing the Reserve Bank Act and from without as a director of lobby group The New Zealand Initiative.
Chapman is an advocate of diversity in the boardroom, and equal pay. Action is too slow on both fronts, she says.
She points to a recent World Economic Forum report that found, globally, the differences in economic opportunity, including pay, between men and women are so vast it will take 202 years to fully bridge the gap at the current pace of change.
She doesn't favour quotas, or other mandatory measures, but does want business leaders to step up and embrace the fundamental concept of fairness.
"I don't want to push today's cohort of men aside or stop men being promoted," she says.
"Every business leader knows all the arguments and all the statistics about why diversity is better for business. But this is also about fairness, and fairness is too slow in coming so we as business leaders need to up the pace."
She adds, "I've always believed that one of the most enduring legacies a leader can leave behind in their organisation is an empathy for diversity and equality, and I have always loved working with my leadership team to create the conditions where all of our team members feel valued and are proud to say where they work."
Chapman's own record for promoting diversity is substantial.
She instituted ASB's Whakaterehia programme in 2014 to encourage Maori representation at senior management levels, and provide opportunities to achieve a diploma in management.
Her advocacy for the LGBTIQ+ community saw ASB recognised with a Rainbow Tick in 2014.
She was an inaugural trustee of the New Zealand Equal Employment Opportunities Trust, and was chair from 1995 to 2001.
She was a member of the Champions for Change, is a member of Global Women New Zealand, and was an inaugural member of the since-disbanded 25 Percent Group, which aimed to improve gender diversity at senior management levels and within the nation's boardrooms.
Chapman was also chair of Oxfam New Zealand from 1999 to 2002, and was on the board of supervisors of Oxfam International from 2001 to 2002.