Fitting right in
A chance to develop her governance skills on the HortNZ board was too good for its new associate director to pass by.
Kate Trufitt’s decision to settle in Gisborne in 1997 set her on a career path she hadn’t foreseen and helped lead to her recent appointment as associate director of Horticulture NZ.
“I grew up in Whakatane and after travelling overseas, worked in interior design but when my husband Mark and I moved to Gisborne I found there wasn’t much call for those skills, so became involved in horticulture,” she said.
Taking advantage of the diversity of opportunities the horticultural industry offers has seen her work for five different companies in several roles which have brought both challenges and personal development. Her current role is group compliance and safety manager as well as avocado business manager with Apata Group, which she enjoys immensely.
When the opportunity to apply for the HortNZ associate director appointment arose, Kate decided this presented a chance to develop her governance skills.
“I have been in management positions for a number of years now but had no formal governance experience,” she said. >
“I’m delighted to have been appointed to the role and excited at the prospect of broadening my experience in governance.”
HortNZ has established the associate directorship as a development opportunity for a future industry leader to join its board and gain experience in governance, leadership and strategy while bringing their own horticultural knowledge and experience to the board table. The associate director also has the opportunity to be mentored by an industry leader and receive a contribution towards their governance training.
This is a non-voting role, but the board seeks full participation in meetings and welcomes constructive contributions from the associate director to the workings of the board.
Kate said by taking up the appointment she also hopes to become a role model for other women keen to step into governance.
“Too often I think we women underestimate ourselves and therefore don’t put ourselves forward for leadership roles,” she said.
“There’s often not a clear path towards governance for women, and those which do exist are probably not well known. I encourage women to seek out opportunities and give governance a go.” Seeking out opportunities and taking on challenges is what Kate has done throughout her career. Her first horticultural job was as logistics manager with Cedenco Foods New Zealand which produces natural fruit and vegetable ingredients for international markets.
“There I gained a good grounding in supply chain management and export market phytosanitary requirements,” she said.
“It was a great introduction to the horticultural industry.”
In her next move Kate became client services manager for Riversun, one of New Zealand’s premium suppliers of certified avocado trees and kiwifruit vines and a leading supplier of certified grafted grapevines.
“In 2005 Riversun and the New Zealand avocado industry embarked on a joint venture to import 15 new avocado cultivars and clonal rootstock. Riversun had established a post-entry quarantine facility for the plants. I learnt a lot about biosecurity, managing nursery trees, grafting and using clonal material grafting techniques, also developing new orchards and vineyards during my time with Riversun.”
Her next move was to Kaiaponi, also in Gisborne, a leading grower of apples, kiwifruit and feijoas. “This was yet another diverse role in which I was responsible for the marketing and export of apples and the market management and distribution of the local citrus programme.”
Her role also included working with growers, the re-development of the company’s health and safety standards, plus phytosanitary standards and supply-chain co-ordination.
When her husband was appointed to a role at the Auckland War Memorial Museum, Kate joined the Aucklandbased company, Fresh Direct, which is involved in fresh produce export and local market distribution. Shortly after joining the company, she was asked to take on the human resources and safety management role.
“We had three branches and about 300 staff. It was challenging and a big learning curve, but I would recommend anyone in management to take on HR at some time in their career because it helps develop a whole new set of skills.”
In 2015 Kate moved to the Bay of Plenty to be closer to family and to the role with Apata Group where she leads three business functions.
“It’s a really busy role with 140 plus permanent staff and 1000 seasonal workers,” she said.
“I wear three hats, looking after compliance and health and safety, plus the avocado business. Apata’s high standards of compliance and phytosanitary requirements is among the reasons we were one of the first companies to export avocados to China this year.”
She looks forward to engaging and adding value to the horticultural industry and growers through her associate directorship opportunity.
Too often I think we women underestimate ourselves and therefore don't put ourselves forward for leadership roles.
◀ Kate Trufitt – a wide range of horticultural experience has led to her latest challenge.