Looking at women making a difference and leading in Hawke’s Bay, the most obvious set of individuals to note are the women we elect or who otherwise head our largest institutions. These are the women who are paid to lead, we expect leadership from them, and most – but not all – are familiar figures.

But complementing them is an even larger range of women who, simply by the nature of their position, paid or volunteer, exercise substantial influence over the day-to-day activities that affect our wellbeing and quality of life in Hawke’s Bay. They sit on boards, run nonprofits, lead large networks – formal and informal – committed to one or another community mission in areas like health, education, sports and social services.

The ‘public officials’ are easier to spot; the other group is more difficult, and although BayBuzz has decent radar, without doubt some will have eluded us … apologies in advance.

What is ‘leadership’ anyway? One can sit atop a huge organisation and not lead. To my mind, a ‘leader’ could be any one (or more) of the following. Someone who:

• Has excelled, innovated, inspired in their field – business, sport, whatever;

• Consistently worked for some public good reaching beyond their own personal, family, whānau interest – e.g. heading a charity;

• Holds an office or position that by its nature confers authority and influence – mayor, CEO of DHB;

• (And this might be the vaguest) For whatever reason, maybe pure charisma, has uncommon influence on others, especially on public matters.

For a more informed view, we asked veteran Hawke’s Bay coach and facilitator Robyn Wynne-Lewis for her thoughts on women and leadership. Her view is that “Leadership is about having a positive influence. It’s about using our unique gifts in service of something bigger than just ourselves – a greater good.” [See her column on Women and Leadership.]

Our public leaders

Sitting at the top of the pyramid would be our region’s three mayors. Alex Walker, Kirsten Wise and Sandra Hazlehurst – no further introduction needed. These are the elected women with some real power over the quality of our communal lives. Under local government law, as mayors they and only they get to ‘boss’ their councils’ chief executives (councillors are mere bystanders to this direct authority). 

The right arm for each of these mayors, as well as lonely man-mayor Craig Little is their deputy mayor … and, interestingly, each deputy mayor is female – Kelly Annand, Annette Brosnan, Tania Kerr and Hine Flood.

And as for council chief executives, two of those are women – CHB’s Monique Davidson (alas, soon to depart) and Napier’s Steph Rotarangi. To get something done in HB local government, these are the women to know!

They are the tip of the spear, but behind them are 17 additional elected woman councillors. CHB: Pip Burne, Kate Taylor. HDC: Eileen Lawson, Ann Redstone, Wendy Schollum, Sophie Siers, Geraldine Travers. NCC: Maxine Boag, Hayley Browne, Ronda Chrystal, Sally Crowne, Tania Wright. Wairoa: Denise Eaglesome-Karekare, Danika Goldsack, Melissa Kaimoana. HBRC: Hinewai Ormsby, Jacqueline Taylor.

Sharing visibility with our mayors, but probably with less direct personal impact on our daily lives would be our region’s two woman MPs – Anna Lorck and Meka Whaitiri. Given both are Labour MPs, they of course offer us important entre into the sitting government.

Hawke’s Bay voters elect representatives to only three other public bodies, and these boards include a number of women. The HB District Health Board: Hayley Anderson, Ana Apatu, Heather Skipworth, plus Joanne Edwards (appointed). HB Power Consumers Trust: Diana Kirton (chair), Barbara Arnott, Kirsten Westwood. Centralines Power Trust: Karen Middelberg, Libby Tosswill, plus Catherine Avery (appointed).

This is the official public leadership team Hawke’s Bay’s democracy gives us – 38 women you have selected.

Institutional heft

This next group of women hold sway because they sit atop key organisations across the Bay – some public sector, some private, including a growing contingent of Māori women.

At the top of this list I’d put Keriana Brooking, running the largest organisation in Hawke’s Bay – the DHB. Her projected 2022 budget of nearly $700 million and staff of about 3,600 potentially touch every one of us – 44,000 of us go to the Emergency Department alone in a year. 

She’s the first wahine Māori CEO of a district health board in the country. Awhile back, when BayBuzz interviewed her, Keriana said, “I wake up every day with the taste of expectation in my mouth.” Isn’t that what we want in a leader? Any real leader takes some hits, as she wryly observed about the “days when I’m the statue, not the pigeon”. Her two priorities: Covid vaccination and equity in the way the DHB provides its services.

But Brooking is just the tip of Hawke’s Bay healthcare iceberg when it comes to women in key positions. Within the DHB, Ngaira Harker holds the Māori Covid outreach lead and Andrea Jopling the DHB’s vaccine rollout (she’s also deputy chair of Cranford Hospice Trust Board). Chris McKenna is chief nursing & midwifery officer and oversees all Covid response.

Phillipa Blakey is the recently appointed (last May) chief executive of Health Hawke’s Bay, which oversees the region’s primary healthcare system – our general practices and other health and social care providers. Dr Louise Haywood is the medical director and also serves as deputy chair of Hastings Health Centre.

One of HB’s largest primary care providers is Te Taiwhenua o Heretaunga, whose CEO (also since May) is Waylyn Tahuri-Whaipakanga, and at TTOH the medical director is Dr Kiriana Bird.

On the ‘private’ side, Denise Primrose serves as general manager of Royston Hospital, with six operating theatres and 130 staff, now undertaking a $14 million redevelopment that will feature two new operating theatres and new day surgery facilities. The separate philanthropic Royston Health Trust is chaired by Gifford Devine lawyer Jacqui Gray, who has served in an impressive history of community leadership roles. On that board is also Jessica O’Sullivan who sits on the Hawke’s Bay Foundation board as well.

And finally, the revered Cranford Hospice is directed by CEO Janice Byford-Jones.

So, women run health in Hawke’s Bay. But the health sector doesn’t hold a monopoly on women in Hawke’s Bay positions of influence.

Wendie Harvey chairs the Board of Hawke’s Bay Airport, Christine Spring serves on the Unison Board, and Sarah von Dadelszen on the Centralines Board. Hawke’s Bay Today’s assistant editor is Linda Hall. Viv Bull sits in the executive team at Napier Port, with responsibility for all external relations and human resources (think: health & safety … Covid response, vaccinations), 

and the Port sports a female director, Diana Puketapu, Napier-born but now living in Northland (passing grade, Napier Port, but look at the resident talent herein). Karla Lee is CEO of the HB Chamber of Commerce. 

Our major arts/performance establishments are directed by women, Toitoi by Megan Peacock-Coyle and MTG by Laura Vodanovich. When she’s not directing marketing & communications at HDC, triathlon athlete Naomi Fergusson contributes as vice-chair of Sport HB. Sally Jackson is general manager of the A&P Society (think showgrounds) and Sally Duncan is chair of HB Winegrowers. 

How do major HB businesses and organisations find stars like these? Many turn to Rachel Cornwall, who heads search firm Populous People. Or they’re developed from within by a coach like Robyn Wynn-Lewis. 

In our Māori community women leaders abound. Chrissie Hape serves as CEO of Ngāti Kahungunu Iwi Inc. We’ve already mentioned CEO Waylyn Tahuri-Whaipakanga at Te Taiwhenua o Heretaunga. 

Throughout the region several of the post Treaty Settlement entities, collectively holding hundreds of millions in assets and investable cash, are led by women – Tania Eden (chair, Mana Ahuriri Trust and CEO Te Taiwhenua O Te Whanganui-a-Orotū); Liz Graham (chair, Heretaunga-Tamatea Settlement Trust); and Tania Hopmans (chair, Maungaharuru-Tangitu Hapu Trust). And Joinella Maihi-Carroll co-chairs the Regional Planning Committee of HBRC, which has the lead say on all RMA matters. 

Plus, you’ll see plenty of other Māori women spread across the sector leadership described elsewhere in these pages. 

Next to health, education is probably the other ‘institutional’ presence in Hawke’s Bay most populated by women leaders. Naturally, each of Hawke’s Bay’s girls colleges is led by a female principal: Dawn Ackroyd (Napier Girls’), Maria Neville-Foster (Sacred Heart College); Dame Georgina Kingi (St Joseph’s Māori Girls’); Catherine Bentley (Hastings Girls’), Shona West (Hukarere Girls’), Helen Armstrong (Iona), Julie Peterson (Woodford). 

Women nurturing tomorrow’s women leaders. 

Dionne Thomas (Karamu HS), Jo-Anne Vennell (Wairoa College) and Pippa Caccioppoli (Taikura Rudolf Steiner) hold the distinction of being female principals of HB co-educational high schools (OK, the latter is Year 1-13). Go Dionne, Jo-Anne and Pippa! Plenty of women principals at the primary and intermediate levels. Is there some unwritten rule we don’t know about? 

At EIT, former Hastings Girls’ principal (now Hastings councillor) Geraldine Travers had chaired EIT’s former governing council and now sits on the new board alongside Chrissie Hape (CEO, NKII). EIT’s executive team includes Jo Blakeley, Philippa Jones and Natalie Waran. 

Community glue 

‘Leadership’ doesn’t only occur in large government/public sector entities like those just described. Yes, they have vested authority and resources to work with. But much of our community ‘glue’ comes from the many women running the small and medium-sized businesses of Hawke’s Bay. Across the spectrum, long-standing veterans like Jonelle Jarvis (Bay Espresso), Claire Vogtherr (Holly Bacon), Andrea Napier (Andrea’s), Sharon Chapman (ABC Software), Helma van den Berg (Clearview) and Ahuriri’s champion, Alison McKimm. This list could go on forever. 

Sometimes people just ‘get up and do’. Think Hello Cup, Jammies for June, LilyBee Wrap, Ultrella, Magic Beans, Norish, Napier Repair Café, Keirunga Quilters, Nourished for Nil, DO LESS, Yarny Army – all driven by women. All leaders defined as doing “something bigger than just ourselves”, as Robyn Wynne-Lewis put it. 

So we’ve also profiled twenty individuals making their unique marks in ways you might find inspiring. Plus, our other articles feature women leaders we think you’ll find impressive in other key sectors in Hawke’s Bay. 

However, we’ve barely scratched the surface.Let’s face it … unless it involves beer, cars or beef + lamb, we guys are asleep at the switch. 

Finally, because I don’t get a Letter from the Editor in this edition, I want to note here that BayBuzz itself has been blessed with a crew of women who have kept this ship afloat with style, feistiness and excellence. The long-term veterans over the years have been Lizzie Russell, Giselle Reid, Bridget Freeman-Rock, Jess Soutar Barron, Kay Bazzard, Florence Charvin and Liz Nes. Accompanied by a host of women writers and columnists contributing frequently, including several in this edition. And my wife Brooks, who from day one has mellowed my sharper edges with her better judgment. 

In short, no women, no BayBuzz

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