Chapter Zero NZ celebrates first anniversary and launch of Board Toolkit
Chapter Zero NZ celebrates its first anniversary amid growing awareness of the climate challenge.
Meleane Burgess CMInstD considers governance a form of service.
As a groundbreaking director from a Samoan background, Burgess uses the concept of “service” in two senses – firstly to the organisations she oversees, and secondly to the Kiwi Pasifika directors that will come after her.
The Waikato-based director received the Pacific Governance Leader and Rising Governance Star awards at the 2022 Women in Governance awards in August. She is the managing director of Dynamic Advisory Limited, former chairperson of the Hillcrest High board of trustees and sits on the NZ Post board as part of the Future Directors programme. She also serves as a member of the Pacific Reference Group for the Ministry of Social Development, an independent director on the Public Trust Board and a Council Member of the University of Waikato.
Her first foray into governance was not actually as a board member. In 2018, Burgess set up the Waikato Pacific Business Network, which provides peer support and advocacy for Pasifika business owners and directors in the region.
A chartered member of the Institute of Directors and an accountant by trade, Burgess felt the Pasifika business leaders she worked with would benefit from a professional association.
“That was my introduction to governance – setting up the executive committee to take the Network forward,” she says.
“Doing that gave me some of the initial experience I needed in order to move into governance – because it was very difficult to get onto a board.”
Governance was almost “invisible” as an opportunity for Pasifika professionals in the very recent past, she says.
“When I started out as an accountant, governance was an area that was invisible. Pasifika businesses and professionals were pretty much invisible in the Waikato at that time, to be honest. We were always seen as blue-collar workers, not those who become the greatest accountants or lawyers or doctors. For me, I needed to change that for the next generation, for my own children who will be heading towards those pathways.”
Today, the Waikato Pacific Business Network is the organisation that is driving Pacific economic development in the region, she says. And Burgess’s governance career has also progressed. Establishing the Network led to invitations to serve on organisations at a local level, then at a national level. In 2022, she completed the Institute of Directors Mentoring for Diversity programme, which matches up-and-coming governance professionals with experienced mentors.
“That was an excellent programme. It gave me the platform to learn from an incredible mentor. It enhanced my ability, my perspective, my understanding of governance.”
Being recognised through awards is great, she says, but her focus remains on “service” to her organisations and communities.
“Growing up as a Pacific Islander, service was one of my core values. That passion for service eventually turned into a career – in governance.”