High Altitude
Sir Jim McLay, On leadership: believe in something, do it for the right reasons, plus politics, climate and world peace

Sir Jim McLay, On leadership: believe in something, do it for the right reasons, plus politics, climate and world peace

July 14, 2019

Sir Jim McLay discusses topics frankly and openly; as diverse as Public service, NZ local and national politics, leadership, conservation, whaling, climate, the UN and the law:

  • How to spot and grasp opportunities to serve your community; the dos and don'ts,
  • MMP vs. first past the post,
  • Why he wouldn't recommend politics as a career but it’s worth doing for the right reasons and with life experience 
  • When to throw your hat in the ring for local or national government
  • The minimum requirements for joining politics - local or other
  • Creating opposition by "not saying yes enough"
  • 3 vs 4 year government term - 4 years is too short for a good government, 3 years is too long for a bad government
  • Why it’s good that youth are worried about climate change - which is a "risk management" issue based on the science
  • The glacier in the Antarctic that is named after him and how it happened
  • Whaling - the history and what next  - Iceland, South Korea, Russia and other's stance and why it's a worry
  • United Nations - The campaign for a seat on the security council, the veto, eating for New Zealand, Rwanda - the Singapore of Africa or nearly and why the 3rd largest standing force in the world deserves recognition and support despite sometimes failing.

Jim was born and educated in Auckland completing a law degree in 1967. He worked for a period in the profession before entering public service and successfully standing for the New Zealand Parliament as a candidate for the NZ National Party in the Birkenhead electorate in 1975. A long-time member of the National Party organisation he was clearly seen as a future minister and leader and within three years of his election to Parliament he was appointed by Prime Minister Robert Muldoon to the posts of Attorney General – the youngest ever to hold the role – and Minister of Justice. Six years later he became deputy leader of the Party and Deputy Prime Minister.

In that same year National lost power in a snap general election. Muldoon was seen to be out of touch by younger members of the party and was challenged for the leadership with our guest taking out the contest. In a difficult post Muldoon period there followed a further leadership challenge which he lost and our guest subsequently retired from Parliament in 1987. It was post Parliament that he began the most interesting period of his career working commercially in numerous board and advisory roles, serving as a permanent representative to the United Nations and winning a place for New Zealand on the Security Council of the organisation. He became New Zealand’s representative to the Palestinian Authority and acted as special advisor to the Minister of Foreign Affairs. He has held and influenced at a national level through roles too numerous to mention.

He has received recognition and honours for his public service that range from honorary doctorate to knighthood and, significantly, has a glacier in Antarctica that bears his name. This recognises his work on the International Whaling Commission – particularly his advocacy that led to the establishment of a whale sanctuary in the Southern Ocean.

Sudesh Jhunjhnuwala discusses the triple bottom line attitude plus the story behind scaling a family business

Sudesh Jhunjhnuwala discusses the triple bottom line attitude plus the story behind scaling a family business

March 11, 2019

Sudesh is a New Zealander who was living "sustainability, accessibility and culture" as a way of doing business way before it was fashionable. A Be Accessible Fab 50 member and recipient of numerous awards, he has set his sights on scaling the business with family origins. Here he discusses his journey.

Born in the former Burma to Indian parents. He spent his childhood in Kathmandu and Hong Kong where his business career began. His grandfather, who started life as an accountancy clerk in Burma, began the family dynasty when he started his own company three years after that initial job. Two generations on our guest runs the New Zealand arm of the enterprise - a significant part of the family business - with the next generation in the wings preparing to carry it on. And the business runs with sustainability and longevity to the fore.

Sudesh completed a degree in business administration in Southern California and came to New Zealand for the first time on honeymoon with his wife. They both loved the country and vowed to make it their home in both residency and business.

Today he can be described as a business owner, a property investor, an entrepreneur, a philanthropist and a practicing environmental advocate. One of the few hotel owners and developers based in New Zealand he is a sought after speaker in tourism and won the prestigious Environmental Tourism Award in 2017. Under his direction Sudima Hotels now includes three hotels with another three under development from Auckland in the north to Christchurch in the south. The group currently has other hotels under development including a new development in Kaikoura. All the group’s hotels have been rated bronze to gold for accessibility as you would expect from a Be Accessible business leader.

With a community focused ethos and an emphasis on sustainability with the country’s only carboNZero hotels, this is an industry leader who is a strong advocate of diversity and inclusion, and who provides free breakfasts for school children.


Peter Egan, Pioneering the New Zealand meat industry from the bottom up and top down, living your values and putting something back every single day

Peter Egan, Pioneering the New Zealand meat industry from the bottom up and top down, living your values and putting something back every single day

October 7, 2018

Peter Egan is a man who started his working life as an accountancy clerk, switched to the practical and trained as a butcher and subsequently became general manager of his family’s butcher
shops in Gisborne. He moved on to larger roles in the meat industry, served on the national industry association executive and then drove the development of a mutton export business before
embarking on the establishment of a sophisticated boneless meat processing operation to prepare pot roast product taking lamb from the farm to the United Kingdom customer as a packaged item.
His work and standing in the industry saw him appointed as chair of Freesia Investments to focus on a restructure of a major portion of the New Zealand meat industry.

An influencer and force for change in the sector he was awarded the 1990 Commemoration Medal for Services to New Zealand. He subsequently became an Officer of the New Zealand Order of
Merit. In 1993 our guest started a meat processing and exporting organization, Greenlea Premier Meats, and as chairman he drove that from concept to arguably the most efficient meat processing
operation in the country. In terms of vision, utilization and yield it sets the highest industry standards. Where others in the business cry “difficult” the Egan management team guided by his
philosophy find opportunity. Peter has served as a director on numerous boards and that includes those outside the industry he has made his life in. He has served as a director of NZ Rail and deputy chair of the State Owned Landcorp, our biggest national farm enterprise.

Actually it is outside the primary industry that this man has made his mark as someone special. He has worked for charities, mentored youth and set the benchmark for the term “corporate social
responsibility”. He personally picked up responsibility for the rebuild of the Hamilton Cathedral and managed that project in a way the church described as “tough minded but compassionate”. 


Kevin Roberts, Diversity of thinking is the sustainable competitive advantage for boards and the only way to change the world

Kevin Roberts, Diversity of thinking is the sustainable competitive advantage for boards and the only way to change the world

August 29, 2018

Kevin started life in Lancaster and talks about his early formative years in the north of England, choosing not to be a prefect, sport and entrepreneurship and working for strong women early on. 

He discusses many themes including leadership vs. management, freelance talent, innovation, failing fast and niche growth areas. Opening his corporate career with the high profile London fashion house Mary Quant. He moved through two of world’s leading fast moving consumer concerns Gillette and Procter and Gamble working in Europe and the Middle East before becoming Chief Executive of Pepsi-Cola Middle East at 32 years of age. He was promoted to a similar role in Canada and made a distinct impression in the Cola wars before coming to New Zealand in 1989 to head Lion Nathan driving the brewer to a dominant market position in New Zealand and Australia.

20 years from 1997 until 2014, as worldwide chief executive of global creative giant Saatchi and Saatchi, lead the thinking in marketing, brand and communications. His acknowledged dominance as a leader in the sector saw him assume global roles and receive numerous honours from organisations, universities and academics. He was honoured also by his adopted country New Zealand being made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to business and the community. A director, author, speaker and business ambassador he is known and followed by many in countries too numerous to mention.

Often described as a colourful and entertaining speaker he has a distinct frankness and direct style that highlights key messages. Those messages focus around leadership and impact, about the here and now and around building high performance cultures. Indeed one of the books he co-authored “Peak Performing Organisations” deals with the lessons to be learned from sports teams that have developed the habit of winning. Unlike many leadership gurus – whose approach is purely academic or often based on one event or change – the pointers that come from our guest are from lessons learned in hand to hand combat in multiple challenging environments that each represent a fascinating case study.



Naomi Ballantyne, True Grit. An innovation and disruption story. Character and Culture key ingredients to move from start-up to business valued in excess of half a billion dollars

Naomi Ballantyne, True Grit. An innovation and disruption story. Character and Culture key ingredients to move from start-up to business valued in excess of half a billion dollars

August 8, 2018

True Grit. An innovation and disruption story. Character and Culture key ingredients to move from start-up to business valued in excess of half a billion dollars within only 7 years

This is company founder inspiration and required listening. The story so far and where to next. What keeps you up at night? Naomi describes the journey through the lonely moments, of being brave and backing yourself and your team plus what it takes to go from a start-up up to a “step up” company. She describes in detail the influence of character and culture on growing a start-up.

Themes of customer outcomes, building culture, diversity, innovation, bootstrapping it and scaling a “family business” are explored. How to transform and dominate your industry through putting people first. What to do when you make mistakes. On being a role model and putting back.

Partners Life has recently received its third tranche of a $200 million investment into the business by US-based Blackstone and reported a record underlying insurance profit, increasing 76% over the past 12 months alone.

An only daughter in a family of five children with a Pacific heritage she grew up in a family environment that was not privileged and had its share of difficulties. Indeed this has been pointed to by some as the key to her intense drive to succeed. It has almost certainly shaped her view of family which is inclusive. At an early stage, while still in her teens, Naomi decided to desert university study and get a job to earn money and marry. She applied for a role in an industry that was totally foreign to her and she not only learned it from the ground up but set out to dominate innovative thinking inside the space.

She did that with spades. For her services to her chosen sector she received the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2017. Having built a career inside a corporate she took her own theories to market and started and grew not only one business but two successively and successfully in the same sector. She is not simply seen as a successful woman but as a successful serial business builder and accomplished chief
executive. She is without question a role model for any man or woman who aspires to reach the top in their chosen field.

Naomi Ballantyne, managing director and founder of Partners Life Insurance has been described as “arguably the most experienced person in the New Zealand life insurance industry.” The lessons can be applied to many industries.

Dominique Dowding, Creating a masterplan -transforming & reinvigorating a sunset industry

Dominique Dowding, Creating a masterplan -transforming & reinvigorating a sunset industry

July 24, 2018

Dominque provides insights into how to diversify while balancing commercial and community objectives. Creating a sustainable business with a “declining” professional sport at the heart of it is also on the agenda. She discusses commercial property development, retail, governance, ideas for rejuvenation and challenges of creating a lifestyle village that is also a destination . She also touches on intricacies of running a “membership based co-operative organisation".

Dom is the chief executive of a prominent Auckland entity in transformation. As a young girl in Barbados she was sent to boarding school in England at the age of eight for first encounters with cold temperatures and kippers. Returning to Barbados she worked in broadcasting, hospitality, sales and marketing and investment management handling a widely spread family investment portfolio. Her introduction to this country saw her start work with a bankrupt hotel which led to the role of director of sales and then deputy general manager of the Christchurch Town Hall and Convention Centre where she took responsibility for sales, marketing, events, facilities and IT. She drove a loss of $8 million into profit transforming the business in structure and focus.

She developed her own investment and advisory business, served as an independent director and in 2012 joined the Auckland Trotting Club as chief executive officer, a role she currently holds. With assets of $250 million and a staff of around 300 she runs racing, hospitality, gaming, retail and property development on a

With a 51 hectare portfolio with 16.5 hectares located in Epsom and 35 hectares in Franklin near the country’s major city with strategy and financial responsibility for the largest brownfield development in Auckland. It is, by any terms, a major transformation programme in action.

Andrew Barnes, The Man Behind the 4 Day Week Initiative

Andrew Barnes, The Man Behind the 4 Day Week Initiative

July 12, 2018

Andrew Barnes chats about various topics including innovation, change management, philanthropy, entrepreneurship, the military, leadership, and team engagement and the 4 day week initiative.

Andrew graduated with a MA in law and archaeology from the University of Cambridge, completed banking and Harvard qualifications and then, deserting the traditional, built a career in financial services in Australia and New Zealand. As an entrepreneur, and also a philanthropist, he has challenged the norms and provoked innovatio and new thinking in the ways we work in a generation of digital communication.

An entrepreneur, philanthropist and innovator in business and fiduciary services, he is a director of Coulthard Barnes and the founder of Perpetual Guardian, which formed under his leadership and direction through the coming together of Perpetual Trust and Guardian Trust, two trustee companies with more than 130 years’ history between them. Andrew followed these acquisitions with a series of others, including My Bucket List, Covenant Trustee Services, Foundation Corporate Trust and New Zealand Trustee Services. In recent years he has challenged the status quo of global fiduciary services by leading a sea-change in digital estate planning services through Kowhiri, New Zealand’s largest digital provider of online wills and will management. 

As a business leader with a 240-strong staff at Perpetual Guardian, Andrew’s vision is to change the future of work by challenging old structures and establishing inventive measures to help people be their best at work and at home. His conception of the 4 Day Week, a 2018 eight-week trial which gave all Perpetual Guardian staff a full day off at full pay every week, was a global first that sparked widespread conversation about flexible working arrangements, productivity and employee engagement. 

Andrew Barnes on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrew_Barnes_(businessman)



Geraint Martin - Healthcare: identifying symptoms & fixing healthcare - what’s the prescription for leaders?

Geraint Martin - Healthcare: identifying symptoms & fixing healthcare - what’s the prescription for leaders?

June 17, 2018

The current chief executive of Te Papa Tongarewa who graduated in modern history and science at the University of Birmingham and is adjunct Professor at the Auckland University of Technology and Victoria University in Wellington speaks on process and problem in the New Zealand and International healthcare systems. Geraint began a career in the National Health Service in the United Kingdom, rose to chief executive and lead a redesign of the Welsh health and social care system before coming to New Zealand and spending a decade running a major District Health Board in a complex multi-ethnic community with deteriorating building assets, rapidly expanding needs and increasingly demanding cost reduction targets. He talks of the difficulties and issues of governance and management and the complexity of the health systems in populations that are aging and facing bigger demands with an emphasis that is now moving to personal health management.


John Spencer - Governance and Changing Fortunes at Tainui

John Spencer - Governance and Changing Fortunes at Tainui

May 24, 2018


Distinguished corporate director and accountant who made his way from the Chartered Accounting office to industry, to retail and fast-moving consumer goods, working for major New Zealand corporates as a general manager finance and planning before taking the helm as chief executive of one of the country’s two largest dairy concerns and seeing that organization merge as a major component of the country’s dominant dairy business and largest export earner Fontera. For the past 17 years he has been an active corporate director and respected chair filling senior governance roles in both private and state sectors. The later has included roles such as chair of KiwiRail – the state national railway operation.

He has been a forceful voice in his profession and held various roles in the Institute of Chartered Accountants while also serving on a Government taskforce for economic development. For his long and valuable service to business and the profession he has been honored by a tertiary institution, his fellow accountants and his country being recognised as a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2011.

Perhaps his most demanding role – one that has exercised all his talents both personal and technical – was his decision to assume the chair of one of the country’s largest iwi groupings, Tainui. The first tribal settlor with Government under the Waitangi process Tainui was in total disarray when he took the chair. A lack of real controls and processes had seen a large part of the financial settlement wealth eroded or squandered on poor investment decisions. He bravely took up a task many thought impossible and set about managing and restoring the fortunes of the Waikato tribal iwi.

Ross McEwan - Leadership and Turning Lemons into Lemonade

Ross McEwan - Leadership and Turning Lemons into Lemonade

May 19, 2018

London based New Zealander who graduated from Massey University and passed through companies such as Unilever, Dunlop and National Mutual on his way to New Zealand chief executive for Axa at 40 years of age.  He moved to Commonwealth Bank in Australia, where he was widely tipped to take the top role, before shifting to the United Kingdom in 2012 to become head of retail banking for the Royal Bank of Scotland Group. Just a year later he became chief executive of the group taking on a role that was publicly described as a wince-inducing hospital pass. The now state owned Royal Bank of Scotland was a multi-billion-pound loss maker that had taken such a battering the State was forced to bail it out to the tune of 45 billion pounds. Its reputation was in tatters in both the UK and offshore. Just five years later, in 2017, our guest managed that business into its first operating profit since the bail out and is steadily rebuilding its brand image. It has been a daunting and massive restructure that would keep anyone awake at night.

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