Dame after four decades of directing

ALAN WOOD AND JAMES WEIR
Last updated 05:00 31/12/2013

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Leading New Zealand corporate director Alison Paterson is a new Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (DNZM) for services to business in the 2014 New Year Honours, having previously been named a CNZM in 2010.

Paterson's four-decade career as a director began when, as a busy King Country accountant, she was shoulder-tapped by the Apple and Pear Marketing Board. She went on to serve 14 years on the board of the Reserve Bank, becoming deputy chairwoman.

She is a director of electricity network provider Vector and her rural-based roles have included being appointed chairwoman of Crown Irrigation Investment in 2013.

Paterson was the first person to be named QBE chairperson of the year at the Deloitte/Management Magazine Top 200 awards in 2010.

Her past chairmanships include Abano Healthcare, Waitemata Health, District Health Boards of New Zealand and Landcorp Farming.

She says governance has changed "enormously" during her time on boards of public companies.

Continuous disclosure obligations occupied an "awful lot of time", she said, adding that it was a necessary part of being a listed company.

It was important for boards to keep a balance between adding value through transparent communications with shareholders without spending too much time watching their backs.

She said she had worked with boards with a clear eye on adding value for shareholders while mitigating risks.

Paterson said she believed she could always do better.

"In my next life I'm going to be a better person and take better care of the people who support you," she said.

Paterson said the biggest challenge in business was the changes to livestock tax in 1987.

The changes affected sheep and beef farmers in New Zealand and Paterson, who had a rural accounting firm, dealt with farmers who were "incredibly badly impacted".

"There were men in my office crying," she said.

"It was a matter of getting these guys through so that they didn't lose their properties and I don't think I'll ever forget that."

Breeding success

Peter Vela has been made a Knight Companion of The New Zealand Order of Merit (KNZM) for services to the thoroughbred industry.

He founded Vela Fishing with his brother Philip in 1976.

The company is now the biggest privately owned fishing quota holder in New Zealand and played a key role in developing international markets for New Zealand seafood.

Vela has been active in horse racing and breeding for more than 40 years, as an owner, breeder and TAB board member. Together Sir Peter and Philip bred and raced Caulfield and Melbourne Cups winner Ethereal.

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Vela bought Wrightson Bloodstock in 1996, renaming it New Zealand Bloodstock.

At the time, Wrightson Bloodstock, a subsidiary of Wrightson Ltd, had been running New Zealand's premier yearling sale for 70 years.

Vela set up a leasing and financing business to help breeders buy bloodstock, and in 1998 he set up New Zealand Thoroughbred Marketing to promote New Zealand thoroughbreds around the world, and also helped sponsored Sir Mark Todd's Olympic efforts.

Vela said he was humbled by the knighthood.

"It's certainly not something you ever set out to attain, or consider might ever happen for that matter," he said.

"It was a huge surprise and a great honour."

Vela said the thoroughbred industry had "grown massively" and "changed dramatically" during his time in the business.

He said his proudest achievement was to look back on being part of the creation of a successful business.

Earlier this year, Peter and Philip Vela split their business interests, with Sir Peter taking over all the racing and bloodstock, while Philip has taken over their fisheries interests.

The Vela family's net worth was reported at $200 million in this year's NBR Rich List.

Rebuilding a city

Top Christchurch business people dominate the New Year Honours list for recognition in the business sector.

Those named from Christchurch are also linked to repair and recovery projects from the 2010-11 earthquakes.

Canterbury Chamber of Commerce boss and earthquake repair advocate Peter Townsend is a new Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to business and the community.

As chief executive of Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce, Townsend has championed the idea of a full city restoration and early on picked the rebuild cost would ramp up towards $40 billion.

Townsend has been executive leader of the chamber since 1996 and, since September 2010, has been heavily involved in wider earthquake recovery issues.

He has pointedly asked the Christchurch City Council to explore all options, including asset sales, to ensure the best rebuild for the community and to cover any insurance shortfalls.

Townsend is a board member of NZ Trade and Enterprise and a member of the Callaghan Innovation grants committee.

Christchurch-based Richard Ballantyne is a new Companion of The New Zealand Order of Merit for services to business.

He has been a director of iconic Canterbury retailer J Ballantyne and Co since 1985 and was managing director from 1996. He recently took over as chair at Ballantynes from Peter Cox who had held the role for about 16 years and who remains a director.

Ballantyne is a community board member of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority and chairman of the St Barnabas Rebuild Appeal.

He is a past president and life member of the New Zealand Retailers Association, and a past board member of the Christchurch Central City Business Association and the Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce.

Ballantyne has been involved in Christchurch's Re:Start mall, a project designed to bring some vitality back into the heart to city's quake damaged central business district. The mall project has also been aimed at tourists, a key part of Ballantynes' retail mix.

Earl Hagaman is also a new Companion of The New Zealand Order of Merit for services to business.

He is executive chairman of the Scenic Hotel Group and has been involved in hospitality and tourism for more than 30 years.

Hagaman's Scenic group has grown to become the largest entirely New Zealand-owned-and-operated hotel chain with accommodation across the country.

The company expanded into the Pacific in 2012 with the opening of Scenic Hotel Tonga. The new property came with the purchase of the Royal Tonga International Hotel, located near Tonga's international airport on Nuku'alofa.

The Scenic group lost Charlie B's Backpackers Hostel and saw the Scenic Suites in Kilmore St closed because of the quakes, but has a collection of 17 hotels, including the Tongan property.

Hagaman's worth has been estimated at $180m, and in 2009 he became the sole recipient so far of a New Zealand Hotel Industry Achievement Award.

He has also been involved in a wide range of philanthropic causes, contributing millions to community and sporting groups and health research.

- BusinessDay

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