Pacific women lead the way at NZ Governance Awards


Waikato-based Meleane Burgess took away the trophies for the Pacific Governance Leader and Rising Governance Star categories at the recent Women in Governance Awards 2022.

Hosted by Women on Boards New Zealand in conjunction with Governance New Zealand, the awards were announced at a gala dinner, staged at Parliament last week. 

For the second consecutive year, the Ministry for Pacific Peoples proudly sponsored the Pacific Governance Leader category, which recognises Pacific women in governance and presents the award to a woman who is acknowledged as an experienced and reputable governance leader at a regional or national level, championing gender diversity and equity, says a statement issued on the Ministry of Pacific Peoples. 

Minister Aupito William Sio says this is a fiercely fought over category, with a high calibre of Pacific women in the running to receive the prestigious award.

“In 2021, Caren Rangi (ONZM) – Chair of the Arts Council of New Zealand Toi Aotearoa – Creative New Zealand’s governing body – received the Pacific Governance Leader award, which has set the bar very high.

“However, we are seeing more and more talent stepping up to the mark, and I know we are in good hands, with these brilliant women.”

Meleane faced tough competition in the category, coming up against Lealiifanovalevale Erolia Rooney, Jemaima Tiatia, and Pauline-Jean Luyten.

However, her tireless service to the Pacific community, in the Waikato region and nationally, and commitment to paving the way for many up-and-coming Pacific peoples in the governance space, especially for the younger generation saw her take out the award.

She also was successful in collecting the Rising Governance Star Award, with her focus, determination and resilience to establish her governance career, in the face of challenges of youth and gender, impressing the judges.

Pacific women featured in other award categories as well, with Mele Wendt (MNZM) receiving the Not-for-Profit Governance Leader Award and was commended by the judges for her demonstrated leadership of over 25 years.

Mele has six current governance positions with a previous 15 governance roles where she has been a mentor for other women, changing the narrative and being very influential in the political and not for profit space.

Auckland based accounting firm, WE Accounting took home the prestigious Gender Diverse Organisation Leader Award, with insightful, inclusive, innovative and sustained work, focused on systemic advocacy and actions for gender equality and ethnic diversity.

Minister Sio says MPP works hard to encourage more Pacific women into governance, by regularly running courses and training.

“Pacific women are natural-born leaders, and it is an exciting time when we start to see more Pacific women at the table,” he says.  

“I would like to congratulate all of the nominees and award winners for their contributions to good governance and wish them all the best with their ongoing work – ia manuia.” 

Inspiring and pathing the way for other wahine Māori to follow, Deputy Chair of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand, Tania Simpson was awarded the Māori Governance Leader Award.

Often both the first woman, and the first Māori to be appointed to esteemed boards, the judges admired the strength of Tania’s appointments and the strategic influence she leads, opening minds and hearts to the importance of Māori values and Treaty partnership in business.

The inaugural Ethnic Communities Governance Leader Award went to Nuwanthie Samarakone who stood out to judges for her versatility in governance roles and her significant contribution to those boards as an ethnic woman.

Susan Doughty and Elle Archer were joint winners of the newly introduced Gender Champion award.

The Lifetime Achievement Award recognises a woman who has made a lifelong commitment to governance and leadership, and this year went to Sally Morrison, a trailblazer for women in sport in New Zealand. 

Source: Ministry of Pacific Peoples