Leanne Stewart

Horticulture NZ
Tell us about your background.

My academic qualifications and professional experience at the Ministry for Primary Industries gave me unique opportunities to manage projects for the technical development, implementation and review of phytosanitary and operational standards to facilitate safe trade. Conversely, my experience at International Plant Protection Convention, leading the review of global plant health implementation, has provided me with a policy and strategic understanding of plant health systems, particularly in relation to international agreements and the obligations of member countries. My current role with Horticulture New Zealand combines all of my previous experience to work in the interests of growers within the horticulture industry.

What’s the best thing about your role?

Working with a broad range of industry and government organisations to find solutions to enable growers to succeed in growing healthy fruit and vegetables.

Do you travel much for the role ?

Travel is part of my role, however it’s also important for me to spend time in the office with staff.

Was being a woman a hindrance or a help in getting this role? Tell us about that.

As a woman I haven’t experienced any discrimination or advantages that have impacted my career choices or advancement. Instead I’ve been recognised for my commitment and hard work.

Did you require any specific education or training for this role?

Having a background in the sciences is useful for working in my role which is a combination of technical, management and leadership.

Are you on any Boards? If so which ones

I’m on a number of technical governance groups in the biosecurity and food safety fields, as well as the Women in Horticulture Executive Committee.

What do you do now?

Deputy Chief Executive, Horticulture New Zealand.

How did you get that role? What was the pathway to that?

Building on my qualifications and experience working in government and international organisations I then moved into an industry role at Hort NZ as the Biosecurity and Trade Policy Manager. After working in that role for some time I knew I wanted to take on more of a leadership role and work across the organisation and the industry.

If you have children how do/did you balance your job and family? What are/were the biggest issues? How did you deal with them?

I don’t currently have any children, however I do commute into Wellington from the Wairarapa, which requires me to balance my time wisely.

Do you have any qualifications?

Yes, I’m a Massey University graduate, studying both internally and extramurally. I’ve graduated with a Bachelor of Science majoring in Plant Biology and Ecology and a Postgraduate Diploma in Science with an endorsement in Plant Protection.

If you had your time again would you do anything different?

No, life is a journey.

Do you have any advice/tips for other women wanting a role like yours?

Work hard and take opportunities that are outside your comfort zone to grow and develop. It’s also important to have strong support networks and learn from everyone around you.

As a woman involved in horticulture is there anything that you would like to see change that would make your life/role better?

I would love to see more women in the horticulture industry take on leadership roles, in both growing or sector organisations.