Candidate profiles

Richard VAN DER JAGT

Candidate for At Large Representative and BOP/ Rest of NZ Representative

I have been living and working in the Bay of Plenty region for the past 25 years and I have enjoyed raising my family of 4 children in this beautiful environment. Over recent years, I have managed dual roles as Chief Executive of a national nonprofit educational and sporting organisation, with running our avocado orchard. Having, recently resigned my role as Chief Executive, I have the time to be more fully involved in a sector which has captured my imagination and passion since I was a child.

My horticultural career has spanned over 35 years initially starting as a horticultural cadet in Central Otago after which I spent time studying at Lincoln, Canterbury and Waikato University. I started working for MPI as the Marlborough Regional Manager for Horticulture, then taught Horticultural Science at Te Puke High School, prior to purchasing my own avocado orchard in the Bay of Plenty in 2002.

During my time within the sector I have been involved in biosecurity, research, marketing, post-harvest and education. My professional interests include the use of technology to enhance collaboration, learning and business processes. My governance experience includes mentoring SME’s and Non- Profit businesses through Socialink and Business Mentors New Zealand and being a past member of the Export Bay of Plenty Executive Committee. I feel my skills and knowledge developed from within and outside the sector would add value to the NZAGA Executive Committee and I would value your support.

Paula KEARNS

Candidate for At Large Representaive

My husband and I purchased an 8ha avocado orchard last year in Maungakaramea, Whangarei. The orchard had over 800 young and mature trees and we took advantage of lockdown to plant another 600 clonals and seedlings. We are new to horticulture, learning fast and absolutely loving it. I am standing for the At Large position because I want to bring my strategic and finance skills and experience, and fresh eyes to the future direction of the avocado sector that we are all invested in.

My experience includes 30 years of finance, commercial, community, governance, and leadership. I am a Chartered Accountant and have also been the CEO of member organisations including sport and youth development and a board member of various organisations including sport, member organisations, hospitality, and a large philanthropic organisation.

I am currently a Member of the Ministry for the Environment Audit and Risk Committee and an Independent Director of the Mount Wellington Trust Hotels (Waipuna and Landmark) and Keri Corporation. I am also a Chartered Member of the Institute of Directors. I am a grounded person who when not working on the orchard loves spending time with family, friends, the dog and two horses.
NZAGA is a great organisation that exists because of its members and for its members. I am proud to be an avocado orchard owner and it would be a privilege to be elected to the Board and to be able to contribute to NZAGA’s governance in the future.

Maria WATCHORN

Candidate for BOP/ Rest of NZ Representative

Having stood for the past 3 years I am seeking re-election on the NZAGA BOP/Rest of NZ representation. I am currently a member of 2 Board sub committees, one being Chairperson
of the Audit and Risk Committee and a member of the Recognised Product Group. Over the past 6 years I have been involved in P.G.P and M.B.I.E programs - Coordinator of P.G.P Canopy Management Group - Member P.G.P New Cultivar group. Working closely with Plant & Food Research and University of Waikato.
Personal highlights
• NZAGA Grower of the year 2016, 2017, 2018
• Primor and AVOCO Grower of the year

Over the past 18 years my husband and I have hosted numerous Grower Field Days, sharing information with Local and Regional growers. We have showcased the Avocado Industry on a Commercial level and hosted a Governor General visit. My past career was in Banking, developing strong business acumen, Leading Marketing Teams, Group Facilitation, Share Registry, Foreign Exchange, Commercial Lending, Health & Safety, Finance Management, Trade Union Negotiations and Audit & Governance. Covid-19 pandemic presents some challenges globally, I see this as a time of opportunity for New Zealand. It is an exciting, vibrant, and prosperous business to be part of. I bring broad business skills coupled with success as a grower and a serious amount of “skin in the game”. Continuing this journey on behalf of all growers would be my privilege, I look forward to helping take NZ Avocados to the next global level.

Disclaimer: Each candidate profile has been provided by the candidate. New Zealand Avocado and the Returning Officer accept no responsibility for the content or accuracy of the content, contained in each candidate profile statement.