Top businesswomen set for good, old, country hospitality

Leonie Sherlock, CHB branch president of the New Zealand Federation of Business and Professional Women, Oruawharo Homestead owner Peter Harris and Sandra Fleming at the historic Takapau property.
Leonie Sherlock, CHB branch president of the New Zealand Federation of Business and Professional Women, Oruawharo Homestead owner Peter Harris and Sandra Fleming at the historic Takapau property.

In a coup for Central Hawke’s Bay, more than 80 professional businesswomen from around the country and overseas are about to converge on the district to be treated to some good, old-fashioned country hospitality.

The CHB branch of the New Zealand Federation of Business and Professional Women (BPW) is preparing to host the federation’s 53rd annual conference at historic Oruawharo Homestead in Takapau.

BPW CHB president Leonie Sherlock said 84 delegates, including one from Australia, would attend the national three-day conference from Friday to Sunday. “It’s exposing a lot of people to CHB who otherwise would never have come here, so we are aiming to make it a celebration of all that is great in CHB,” she said.

But she revealed that CHB branch member and conference convener Sandra Fleming still had some convincing to do for the conference to go ahead in CHB.

“When we put forward for the conference we were told we should do it Napier or Hastings.

“But Sandra put her foot down and said ‘no, we are CHB, we are going to do it here’.

“So this is going to be different. No one’s been to [a BPW] annual conference at a venue like this before,” said Leonie, referring to 1879-built Oruawharo Homestead, which has been painstakingly restored by owners Peter and Dianne Harris.

With its ballroom featuring intricate panelling in native timber, drawing room, grand staircase and collection of rare antique furniture, Sandra Fleming said Oruawharo would make a unique venue for the conference, which was normally held in the major cities such as Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

“The national executive will all be staying here [at Oruawharo],” she said.

“Normally they are spread out at big, fancy hotels but we think it will be really beneficial for them to be able to stay together and have all their meetings together.

“We’re going to show them some good country hospitality.”

With many delegates also bringing their spouses and partners, Sandra said the conference should provide an economic windfall for the district and had already given a boost to local accommodation providers.

“I know the Tuki Tuki Motel’s already fully booked out, and so is Ferguson’s [Motor Lodge],” said Sandra.

Asked if he would be rolling out the red carpet for the special guests, Oruawharo Homestead owner Peter Harris said: “Of course. But everyone gets that here anyway.”

The conference has adopted the region’s branding, “Great Things Grow Here”, as its theme.

The Friday night includes a reception with BPW president Vicky Mee, followed by the conference awards night, at which former Art Deco Trust general manager Sally Jackson will be guest speaker.

St Vincent’s church, relocated to Oruawharo in 2012 and now known simply as Vincent’s, will hold workshops and meetings over the weekend.

Leonie said the public was welcome to attend a panel session at Vincent’s on Saturday afternoon, called Entrepreneurial Women Excelling from a Rural Base.

The session will be chaired by CHB mayor and businesswoman Alex Walker.

Panellists include Porangahau farmer and AgRecord managing director Gretchen King, Dannevirke’s NZ Business Hall of Fame inductee Mavis Mullins, CHB businesswoman Justine Kidd, recently named an Officer of the NZ Order of Merit, and Sally Maguire of Artmosphere Gallery, Waipawa.

“We wanted to keep our speakers’ panel local, because locally, I think we have a lot to celebrate,” Leonie said.

Tickets to the Saturday panel, from 1.30-3pm on April 22, are available from EIT’s CHB campus on Russell St, Waipukurau, for $20.

Hawkes Bay Today