One of our core values is Manaakitanga. This encapsulates care and respect for people and relationships. Our organisation is made up of innovative, inspired people who share our vision and are proud of our work.
Ngāti Rārua, Te Māhurehure
Paul Te Poa Karoro has served as Chair of Kono NZ LP since 2011, and as a director of Wakatu Incorporation since 1986. Paul’s career has been at the forefront of economic development, political advocacy with extensive Crown relationships for the Maori community for 30 years. Paul is a member of the Audit & Risk and HR Committees of Wakatu Incorporation.
During this time he has had many directorships and roles with Government, Public, and Private entities across agribusiness, science-education and business. Paul served as Chief Executive of the Federation of Maori Authorities, representing the interests of Maori business, from 1996 to 2007. He was awarded a QSO for services to Maori business in the New Years’ Honours in 2010.
Paul, in his capacity of Managing Director of Fomana Capital Ltd, is currently involved with a range of other businesses and organisations spanning the nutraceutical, cosmetic, aquaculture, food & beverage sectors and financial services.
James is currently on the Board of the Federation of Māori Authorities and also chairs the HR Committee, which facilitates both Wakatū Incorporation and Kono NZ. Born in Wellington, James spent his early years in Motueka on his Grandparents tobacco farm – whenua that is now part of the Wakatū Corpus land.
James played an instrumental role in the growth and recognition of our Tohu Wines brand. Launched in 1998, James was the company’s first CEO and in the ten years he held this role, secured markets in over 21 countries. This has allowed Tohu to become the iconic and internationally renowned Māori brand that it is today.
As a longstanding member of his local Rotary Club and a Justice of the Peace, James encompasses the values of Wakatū and Kono. Together with his wife Robyn, they have two sons and five mokopuna (grandchildren) and currently reside in Lower Hutt.
Te Ātiawa, Ngāti Rārua
Johnny is a previous Associate Director of Wakatū. He sits on the Audit & Risk and Human Resources Committees, and is a Director on the Kono Board. Johnny was previously the CEO of an international consulting company for 12 years working in Asia, the Middle East-GCC, Pacific and North America for the World Bank & Asian Development Bank on social infrastructure and human capital development major programmes. After working for the Treasury Department Johnny worked for the Foreign Affairs and Trade, and was GM International for NZQA.
He now sits on the governance board for AgResearch’s National Science Challenge – Our Land and Water (OLW) which aims to enhance New Zealand's primary sector economic contributions while improving our environment. Johnny’s professional qualifications include a Masters in Education Research (with distinction). He lives in Wellington and is Chief Executive of the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society of New Zealand.
Ngāti Tama, Te Ātiawa
Waari was born in Takaka, attended Nelson College and is a graduate of Victoria University. In 1999, he was appointed a Fellow of what is now the Chartered Accountants of ANZ. Waari served 14 years on the Wakatu Board and was a founding Director of Kono.
His working experience includes over 20 years in the food industry working for both Foodstuffs and Progressive Enterprises via Foodtown Supermarkets when it expanded throughout the North Island. His last role as Finance Director exposed him to every aspect of the retail business.
Some of his other past Directorships include Famers Trading Company, Sky City, Moana Pacific Fisheries and the ASB Bank.
Waari’s broad commercial and financial experience has helped ensure that the diverse and rapidly growing business of Kono is appropriately planned, managed and monitored.
Bob is the Independent Chair of our Whenua Board and Director on the Kono Board. Bob is a former long-standing Wakatū Board Director, and former Company Secretary. He is based in Nelson and holds a number of professional directorships.
CEO - Kono
Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Rarua, Ngāti Koata
Rachel is our CEO. She is a former US Trade Commissioner, and founder of Yellow Brick Road Limited, a company that specialises in supplying quality seafood direct into restaurants throughout New Zealand.
Rachel is a Board Trustee on the Young Enterprise Trust and the Wellington Regional Stadium Trust. She is a Director of iwi-owned fishing company Moana NZ, New Zealand Wine Growers, and Aquaculture NZ.
Rachel is a fierce advocate of New Zealand’s primary industry, and has spent 20 years propagating messages of Aotearoa being a world-class producer of food and beverages.
Ngāti Tama, Ngāruahine, Ngāti Whāwhakia
Kerensa is a lawyer who has worked as a solicitor in the private sector, a legal academic at the Faculty of Law, University of Auckland, where she specialised in Māori legal development, public law and land law, and as a Barrister.
Kerensa joined Wakatū Incorporation in December 2012 as its Incorporation Secretary and General Counsel. She was appointed Wakatu CEO in December 2016. She is General Counsel for Kono NZ LP, the Food and Beverage business of Wakatu.
Kerensa is a graduate of Victoria University, where she was awarded a BA in History and a LLB. She has a Masters in Laws in International Law (First Class Honours) from the University of Auckland. Kerensa is a member of the International Association of Corporate Counsel, Corporate Lawyers’ New Zealand and Te Hunga Roia.
General Manager - People & Culture
Ngāti Rārua, Te Ātiawa, Ngāti Tama, Ngāti Koata
Rōpata has been with Wakatū Incorporation since 2002 and is currently General Manager - People and Culture for both Wakatū and Kono. As a graduate of Otago University, Ropata has previously worked in the education sector as a secondary school teacher and tertiary lecturer.
Rōpata is of Ngāti Rārua and Te Ᾱtiawa descent and the Chairman of Ngāti Rārua Ᾱtiawa Iwi Trust Board and ex-officio member to the Investment Committee.
Ropata is also a Trustee of the Nelson Regional Economic Development Agency, the Nelson Sculpture Trust, and is a Ministerial appointee to the Kaiteriteri Recreation Reserve Board.
Originally from the Bay of Plenty, Bruce grew up on the beach with a family of scientists, but a love of books and surfing initially drew him to studying History at Waikato University for a Bachelor of Arts. After much travel and a winding career path, Bruce found himself back at University in his 30’s completing a Bachelor of Wine Science.
Extensive travelling and working in wineries around the world eventually ended with a return to Aotearoa in 2006 and a role with Kono as winemaker in 2008. Heading up our vineyard and winery team, Bruce oversees production of all our Kono, Tohu and Aronui wines with a particular passion for terroir driven Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and of course Sauvignon Blanc. Bruce lives happily in Blenheim with his wife Julie, daughters Eve and Ellie, and a 1970 Valiant coupe.
General Manager - Marketing and Sales
Originally from Nelson, Mel and her family are pleased to have returned home in 2014 after living overseas for 15 years. Mel and her husband Jason live Nelson with their two daughters Ruby and Claudia.
Mel is a graduate of Otago University, where she completed a Bachelor of Commerce and then went on to complete further post graduate studies in international business. Mel is passionate about working within the primary industry sectors and immensely proud to now be responsible for showcasing some of the finest products from Aotearoa.
Mel’s career to date has had a strong global consumer focus where she has spent several years exploring the world’s appetite for products and innovation. Experienced in leadership, management, brand development and international sales, Mel manages the Marketing and Sales for Kono.
Manager - Kono Horticulture
Marty has been in the horticultural industry for over 35 years, working with a diverse range of crops in orchard, nursery, flower and vegetable production. Throughout this time, he has had roles in processing, marketing and management.
Marty was among the team of people that achieved the first Kiwifruit imports into China in the 1990s. Ironically, it was here that he had his first contact with Wakatu Incorporation, hosting a number of our Directors on a visit to Tianjin.
Originally from Wellington, Marty has spent most of his working life in the Hawkes Bay. Ten years ago he made the move to Nelson to enjoy the abundance of lifestyle opportunities in Te Tau Ihu. Marty joined what was then Ngatahi Horticulture in 2008. As General Manager he was part of the team that planned and implemented Kono NZ as a combined food and beverage company. After a break that included tramping across Aotearoa and MFAT Aid work in Asia, Marty returned to Kono in 2015.
General Manager - TIKA
Simon was born in Ōtautahi (Christchurch) but moved to Nelson in Te Tauihu (the top of the South Island) at a very young age. After gaining a Bachelor of Science majoring in Operations Research from the University of Canterbury, Simon returned to Nelson where he began his career in international sales within the salmon industry.
Simon first joined Kono in 2004 in a Blenheim-based role as Seafood Sales Manager, which included promoting the full range of Kono products internationally.
A change of focus in recent years has seen Simon utilise his university background and he now leads the organisation’s Tika division. This division works across all Kono business units and ensures that strong systems, processes and services mean that all teams are doing things better and doing better things.
Simon continues to use his knowledge of the international seafood industry and manages the lobster operations for Kono.
He is now based in Nelson, where he lives with his partner, Rachel and their three daughters Harper, Milla and Charlie.
General Manager Foods
Karen has a long-standing interest in the primary sector and food production industries, stemming from growing up in the small rural settlement of Te Wera, on the Forgotten World Highway. A Bachelor of Technology from Massey University led to Karen’s first ‘overseas’ role as a packaging technologist at Cadbury Confectionary in Dunedin. Karen worked at Fonterra for over 15 years, with roles in new product development, quality assurance and site operation. Prior to coming to Kono, Karen worked for Goodman Fielder, where she was the Puhoi Valley Site Operations Manager.
Karen has an MBA (with distinction) from Massey University, and a wealth of experience in innovation, technical quality, operational and people management. She is passionate about people, products and processes. Moving from Albany to Blenheim to take up her role as General Manager, Foods in early 2017, Karen manages both our fruit bar and seafood processing divisions.
Karen and her husband Chris are stoked to be living back in the South Island. On the weekends, you’ll find Karen, Chris and their dog Mollie out exploring the various mountain bike tracks around Marlborough.