Whanganui & Partners introduces new business lead

With a busy year of business support planned and a sabbatical under way for its resident Army Reservist, Whanganui & Partners is pleased to welcome a new Strategic Lead for Business to its team.

Suzanne Hepi has returned to Whanganui to take up a year-long contract in the role of Strategic Lead – Business, while Tim Easton pursues a sabbatical related to his role in the NZ Army.

Hepi brings with her a vast amount of experience in research and mentoring. She most recently held the position of Kaihāpai Tauira in the Office of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Māori at Massey University, working with Māori postgraduate students in the role.

She also currently participates on the Kellogg Rural Leadership Programme and is continuing her postgraduate studies at Massey University, undertaking a Master’s thesis report in collaboration with her hapū, adding to the skills she will apply to helping Whanganui businesses grow and prosper.

Hepi has iwi and hapū affiliations with Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Rāhiri, Te Kapotai, Waikato-Tainui, Tūwharetoa, Ngāti Maniapoto, Ngāti Whitikaupeka, Te Āti Haunui-a-Pāpārangi, Ngai Tukairangi and Ngāti Pāhauwera.

“It’s great to be able to bring my experience back home and to be contributing to Whanganui’s business community in a practical and pragmatic way,” Hepi said.

“Whanganui’s profile is growing and our region has performed well despite the ups-and-downs of the last few years. Attracting investment and maintaining economic growth is an exciting prospect for me and I’m looking forward to getting involved in Whanganui & Partners’ projects and working with my new team.”

Hepi’s whānau has contributed significantly to the Whanganui business community over the years and her father, Abe Hepi, was one of the founding members of Te Manū Atatu, the Whanganui Māori Business Network.

“I’ve grown up in a whānau focused on business; both in terms of running a successful venture and in participating in and growing a supportive business community. I can appreciate, from first-hand experience, how hard business owners work and the sacrifices they make,” she said.

Hepi said she was encouraged to see the plans Whanganui & Partners has in place to support and grow business in the region, and she hoped to be able to extend that scope as the local economy continued to prosper.

Tim Easton is stepping down from the Strategic Lead – Business role as he heads overseas to build on the skills he has accumulated over 14 years as a member of the Reserve Forces. He currently holds the rank of Captain in the NZ Army.

Although he has travelled abroad with the Army on other occasions, this will be Easton’s longest stint away from New Zealand.

“I am excited about my new opportunity with the Army and I am stoked to confirm Suz will make a positive impact while I’m gone and I’m stepping away with full confidence in her abilities,” Easton said.

Hepi has completed a two-week handover period with Easton and had a chance to see the Innovate Whanganui programme finals and learn about the business support plans Whanganui & Partners has established.

“Suz joined at just the right time to get a sense of what it’s like working on one of Whanganui & Partners’ high-profile programmes while also making sure our day-to-day business support is in place,” Easton said.

Chief Executive Hannah Middleton said allowing Easton to take 12 months of unpaid leave meant the economic development agency was able to support his personal development while also gaining through the skills a new team member could bring.

“Tim has been with the Army for more than a decade and we are proud of the contribution he makes to the Reserve Forces. An important part of our kaupapa is supporting our team in doing the mahi that helps them learn and grow and help other people,” she said.

“Although we need to be discrete about the details around Tim’s time away, we are very proud of his contribution to the Army and we fully support him taking this leave.

“We feel fortunate to have Suz join our team in Tim’s absence and it’s very reassuring to have someone on board with excellent knowledge of economic impacts and inspired to make a difference in Whanganui,” Middleton said.

“It’s not often a CE can be pleased to report on staff turn-over but I am very grateful to have a team that is agile and ambitious and I’m in the fortunate position to be welcoming a capable new team member while saying farewell, for now, to another.”

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