Emma Lees, strategic projects and sustainability manager at AS Wilcox & Sons, has been appointed Horticulture New Zealand’s future director for 2022. ‘I see this as a great opportunity to use my skills and experience for the benefit of the wider industry,’ says Emma. ‘Over the next year, my aim is to develop as a person and a professional, while receiving valuable mentoring and gaining a greater understanding of the role of advocacy in horticulture.’
Emma says the recruitment and retention of staff is a key issue for the horticulture industry. ‘The motivations of the new generation of growers must be considered. Values are as important as the salary package and young people need to feel a connection with the work they are doing.
‘Horticulture offers young people meaningful work. However, we need to do more to offer them clearer career pathways, with links to opportunities for development. ‘Covid presents a number of challenges for growers including managing the health and safety of staff, customers, and suppliers as well as understanding the implications of possible vaccine mandates on the workforce.
‘While some growers have coped quite well, others are under huge pressure and we need to do what we can to support them, as we learn to live with Covid in the community.’
Emma says consumer and legislative changes regarding the environment and climate change are an opportunity as well as a cost. ‘We need to support growers to reduce the cost and complexity of compliance, while also meeting societal demands and realizing added value opportunities.
‘All these issues are so big that no one grower can solve them. We need a team effort and to work in partnership. That way, we will all do better together and be able to further develop the fantastic story that is horticulture in New Zealand.’
Emma has spent the past 15 years in strategic human resources leadership roles in the United Kingdom and New Zealand, with a focus on governance, organizational performance, and culture change. Emma takes over from 2021’s future director, Jamie Mountier, who will finish with the HortNZ board following its meeting in February 2022.