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Here at Te Waka we are a passionate team of business professionals, we love Waikato and thrive on our role in driving the Waikato economy forward.


  • Te Waka Team

    • Hayley Smith

      Business Advisor

      Hayley Smith

      Business Advisor

      Hayley has an extremely diverse skillset with over 10 years of management experience in New Zealand and Australia. She brings a practical approach to business advising and has particular expertise is the retail, hospitality and equine sectors. She has an outstanding reputation within the hospitality and event industry having been involved in the operations and growth of over 20 eateries as well as managing hundreds of regional and nationally significant events. 

    • Tammee Wilson

      Business Advisor

      Tammee Wilson

      Business Advisor

      Tammee’s educational background includes a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Fashion from AUT and she was a finalist in The World of Wearable Art Awards. Her experience of work includes coordination for regional projects and initiatives, events, social media and marketing administration, styling consultant and formerly a fashion agent. 

    • Peter Davey

      Business Advisor

      Peter Davey

      Business Advisor

      Peter has a diverse range of senior management experience in manufacturing and process initially in Zimbabwe and also in New Zealand. An initial qualification in Forest Management in 1975 led to a range of Senior Management roles in Forestry, Tea Industry, Wood Processing, Food manufacture and Analytical Laboratory management.

    • Novell Gopal

      Business Advisor

      Novell Gopal

      Business Advisor

      Novell has a diverse range of academic and industry background including tertiary level teaching, research, technical support (medical diagnostic equipment), sales and marketing, management (product and people), consulting and  governance (not-for-profit). He has experience in working with commercial entities and government organisations at a strategic and management level in Malaysia and NZ in the areas of technology transfer, procurement, contract negotiations and project management. 

    • Tony Kane

      Waikato Mentor Manager

      Tony Kane

      Waikato Mentor Manager

      Tony is the Waikato Business Mentors Coordinator matching mentees and mentors within the NZ Business Mentor scheme. He has 27 years’ experience as an independent business advisor in the public and private sectors, especially working with SME’s.

      He is involved in advising private companies on business strategy, planning, capital raising, system design and implementation. Tony has had a number of governance and advisory roles on private sector and trust boards. 

    • Jason Nepia

      Kaihautu Ōwhanga Māori | Māori Economic Development Manager

      Jason Nepia

      Kaihautu Ōwhanga Māori | Māori Economic Development Manager

      Tēna Tatou Ko Jason Nepia toku ingoa
      Ki te taha o toku pāpā ko Ngapuhi me Ngāti Awa
      ki te taha o toku māmā ko Ngāti Pakeha no Ingarangi me Ahitereiria
      Ka moe ou ki te taha o toku hoa rangatira no Waikato
      Ka puta mai a maua tama e rua
      Mauri Ora Kia koē

      Jason has extensive experience within the Ministry of Social Development and delivering customer-centric support services to a leading Māori Education provider Te Wananga o Aotearoa.  For the last six years, Jason has worked as a procurement consultant with Iwi and the private sector, he has focused on utilising a Social Procurement lens when developing and implementing procurement strategy. 

      Jason holds A PGDip Business Administration and is married to Manaaki Nepia (nee Paki) who is Waikato Tainui/Ngaati Whaawhaakia and has two sons Te Manaaki o Te Matariki Paki-Nepia and Te Putaranui Nepia.

    • Rosie Spragg

      Industry & Sector Development Manager

      Rosie Spragg

      Industry & Sector Development Manager

      Nō Hōrana, nō Ingarangi, nō Aotearoa hoki ahau

      Kāore au i te mōhio tōku iwi Māori, heoi anō, ko Ngāruawāhia tōku papa kāinga

      E mihi ana ki ngā tohu o nehe, o Waikato-Tainui e noho nei ahau

      Ko Rosie Spragg tōku ingoa

      Mauri ora

      Rosie has diverse experience spanning the private and public sector, working in analytical, strategic, commercial and operational leadership roles. Having founded her career in the telecommunications industry, Rosie joined Te Waka from Callaghan Innovation where she was responsible for leading key strategic change initiatives, focussed on enabling transformational change and the realisation of the ideal customer journey.

      Rosie brings energy and focus, with a growth mindset, action orientation and collaborative working style. She holds a Bachelor of Social Sciences with First Class Honours from the University of Waikato, majoring in Economics (Te Reo Māori supporting). Having now returned to her home region, she has joined Te Waka to lead the strategy, planning and implementation of initiatives to develop the Waikato economy with a focus on the region's wealth and employment creating sectors.

    • Susanne Lorenz

      Operations Manager

      Susanne Lorenz

      Operations Manager

      Originally from Germany, Susanne is an adopted kiwi having lived in the Waikato for over 15 years.

      After completing her Bachelor of Business Analysis majoring in Accounting, she settled in Cambridge with her kiwi partner and 3 children.

      Over the years she’s created and built several successful businesses including a coworking space in Cambridge. She’s also been involved in several not-for-profit organisations and sat on the executive board of the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce for several years.

      Susanne will draw on her experience in business administration and management and her talent around systems and processes to support Te Waka operations. She enjoys building and nurturing relationships and is passionate about small business, economic development and the Waikato region.  

    • William Durning

      Partnerships & Investment Manager

      William Durning

      Partnerships & Investment Manager

      William's diverse and successful career as a business owner and independent director has spanned many sectors over the last three decades. From working in the tourism, aviation, and quick service food sectors to governance roles in those same sectors along with student accommodation, building supplies, and a range of community-focused not-for-profit organisations.  More recently, William retired as the Waikato Chamber of Commerce's Chief Executive, having completed a successful turnaround of the 113-year-old organisation and establishing the commercial arm of New Zealand's second-largest Immigration Advisory firm based here in Hamilton - Kirikiriroa.

      William has been married to Alison for over 30 years. They have two grown-up daughters and a greatly loved miniature poodle/bichon frise called Vespa.  William's interests include preparing Asado, Argentine BBQ, from his time in Argentina as an AFS exchange student, opera, and politics at regional and national levels.

      William is very much a people person, with extensive networks, high energy, and a constantly enquiring mind.

  • Te Waka Board

    • Hamish Bell

      Independent Chair

      Hamish Bell

      Independent Chair

      Hamish is an experienced independent director and chair with a wide range of governance experience across a range of industries. 

      Over the last 30 plus years he has worked in New Zealand and across Asia in banking, corporate finance, private equity, investor relations, public relations and stockbroking.  A former Partner at PwC and executive at ANZ National Bank, Hamish currently serves on the boards of a range of companies including Ritchies Transport, Te Waka, Livingstone Building, Boffa Miskell, Eastland Group, and Millennium Corporation. 

      He has previously served as Chair on the boards of GJ Gardner Franklin, Greenstone Group and Pedersen Group, and as a Director on the Boards of EastCare, Southern Hospitality, Sutherland Produce, Martin Aircraft and Te Arawa Group Holdings. 

      With a passion for privately owned businesses and for the Waikato region, Hamish was appointed as Chair in March 2020.

    • Les Roa

      Independent Director

      Les Roa

      Independent Director

      Ko Pirongia te maunga. Ko Waipa te awa. Ko Tainui te waka. Ko Ngaati Maniapoto te iwi. Ko Ngaati Apakura te hapuu. Ko Puurekireki te marae. Ko Les Roa ahau. 

      Les is a co-founder and director of Longveld, specialising in stainless steel fabrication for the F&B sector. Born and bred in the Waikato, Les is committed to using his experience in growing a successful business to help the Waikato rohe grow its already powerful engine.

      His passion is to help the Waikato community prosper financially as well as spiritually - and through this assist young people to succeed.

      Les sees now as the Waikato’s time to become an economic powerhouse in New Zealand, and wants to be a part of that.  He has served on the board of Te Waka from its inception

    • Craig Barrett

      Independent Director

      Craig Barrett

      Independent Director

      Craig is the Tainui Waka nominee to the Te Waka Board, and is a Partner at Bakertilly Staples Rodway Chartered Accountants in Hamilton.

      He works with commercial entities and Māori organisatons and provides strategic and commercial advice on all aspects of their business. He is passionate about innovation and value add to improve economic performance. 

      Craig has a Bachelor of Management Studies from the University of Waikato, majoring in Accounting and Finance, and is a chartered accountant.

      He is also a member of the Institute of Directors. Craig also holds a number of trustee and directorships.

    • Leesah Murray

      Independent Director

      Leesah Murray

      Independent Director

      Leesah Murray is the Chief Executive of the Independent Māori Statutory Board in Auckland. Leesah brings a wealth of knowledge and experience, having held various senior leadership and governance roles.

      Her expertise includes a comprehensive understanding of Te Ao Māori principles, which underpins her decision-making. She also spent many years working in the public tertiary sector and time at an iwi commercial entity. 

      Leesah holds a Master in Business Administration (MBA) with Distinction, a Bachelor of Environmental Management and is a member of the Institute of Directors. She also has several trustee roles and private directorships.

    • Cameron Bagrie

      Independent Director

      Cameron Bagrie

      Independent Director

      Cameron is the former Chief Economist of ANZ, and now runs his own boutique economic consultancy alongside other business activities.  He wants to see all of New Zealand and his own children prosper both socially and economically. 

      He sees the golden triangle and the Waikato as a critical part of New Zealand’s future and notes that well-being needs a strong economic base – the focus of Te Waka – and wishes to see awareness of this raised.
    • Dr Andrew West

      Independent Director

      Dr Andrew West

      Independent Director

      Andrew lives in Cambridge and is a scientist specialised in the commercialisation of New Zealand technology. Previously CEO of both GNS Science and AgResearch, and Vice-Chancellor of Lincoln University, he co-founded high-tech venture capital fund Matū and is co-founder of Synthase Biotech as well as Chairman of Ligar.  

      He is Chair of WINTEC’s founder incubator, SODA, and was previously a director of Waikato Innovation Park.  Andy is Chair of Māori high-tech investment fund, Te Whāi Ao Group Ltd and Chief Technology Officer of the largest Māori orcharding collective, Te Awanui Huka Pak.

      He is passionate to see the Waikato elevate its economy to one that is higher value, higher-waged and more productive, yet with a considerably smaller ecological impression. 

    • Rob Williams

      Local Government Advisor

      Rob Williams

      Local Government Advisor

      Rob Williams has been a Local Government Chief Executive since 2007 serving as CEO of both Taupo District and Thames-Coromandel District during that time.

      As a Chartered Engineer of the Institution of Civil Engineers, UK, Rob has over 30 years of professional management experience including the successful completion of a wide range of infrastructure projects in both the private and public sector. 

      As a nominee from the Waikato Mayoral forum, his focus has primarily been ensuring there remains a strong and committed conduit between the focus of the economic development agency and its major funders (11 local authorities).

      Rob also brings a wealth of knowledge on and passion for promoting greater understanding of the needs, aspirations and challenges that being in business in rural & provincial New Zealand present.  

      He sees a collective responsibility between local government and business to ensure an environment conducive for business innovation, growth and success.

    • Blair Bowcott

      Local Government Advisor

      Blair Bowcott

      Local Government Advisor

      Blair lives, works and plays in the  Waikato!  A  senior executive with over 22 years’ experience at Hamilton City Council, including the last 15 years in General Manager, Acting Chief Executive and Executive Director roles.  I’ve been an advisor to the Te Waka Board on behalf of the Waikato Mayoral Forum since 2018.  

      Accustomed to rapidly changing environments, the demands of a high-growth region and a Council focused on delivering tangible outcomes, Blair has experience across all parts of Council.

      He has practical experience in the application of spatial planning, including the critical alignment of funding, infrastructure and land use considerations as well as alignment of local and central government initiatives to improve the well-being of our community (including economic development).  

      He is a strong proponent of “boundaryless planning and thinking” which underpins and spatial planning, especially where multiple jurisdictions and delivery entities are involved in influencing and delivering outcomes.  

    • Kaumātua Tame Pokaia

      Advisory Board Member

      Kaumātua Tame Pokaia

      Advisory Board Member

      Tame Pokaia offers his wisdom and advice to Te Waka and the Board as our Kaumatua.  He is from Waikato’s Ngati Mahuta and Ngati Hikairo hapu from Kawhia.

      He grew up on Turangawaewae marae. He credits the marae as one of his special places of learning and has developed a deep understanding of culture, te reo Māori, and King movement. The experiences and memories gained have been invaluable in his life.