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.
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.
Programme committee chairman John Cook 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," he 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."
Colleen Neville is a chartered accountant and chief executive of Te Arawa Group Holdings Limited in Rotorua.
Te Arawa Group Holding's five priority investment sectors are geothermal, forestry, agribusiness, property and tourism. Since buying its first kiwifruit orchard in 2014, Te Arawa Group Holdings has expanded its 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," Ms Neville said.
"Given our continued investment in the sector we are always seeking to widen our knowledge base and keep abreast of industry developments."
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 Maori 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 development programme 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," she said.
"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-chairwoman on Seeka Growers Limited, a member of the New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Forum and its 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.
"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."
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," Ms Scott 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.
Mr Cook said it wouldn't just be the kiwifruit marketing giant benefiting 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."