Our specialist staff

Virginia Nicholls
Chief Executive Officer

Virginia joined Employers' in June 2016. Virginia has experience in small, medium and large businesses across the manufacturing, education, tourism and the not-for-profit sectors. This includes senior management roles in fast moving consumer goods-based companies and tertiary education.

For nine years she was Director of Marketing and Communications at the University of Otago, where she was also on the council of a residential college. In addition to being responsible for the University’s recruitment, marketing and communications functions, this role included overseeing employer outreach activities, advancement of the organisation’s profile at a national level and collaboration with local government entities.

Previously Virginia was a consultant for Chess Strategic Marketing, Marketing Manager for Cottonsoft (formerly Plypac Industries) and General Manager for the Mosgiel-based salad and vegetable manufacturer Bush Road.

Virginia’s strong ties to regional business also include board memberships for several private companies and not-for-profit organisations. She has recently been on the Brand Dunedin working group and was a Business Mentor – through a programme run by the Employers’ Association – for many years.

Diana Hudson
  LLB, CMInstD
Managing Solicitor

Diana has extensive legal and practical experience in employment law and human resources. Initially Diana worked in general practice undertaking mainly criminal, family and employment law. She has had many roles within Employers' Association having been an employment lawyer, Board Member and now Managing Solicitor. Having worked with Employers' Association as an employment lawyer from 1998 to 2001 she joined the Mainland Poultry Group as its Human Resources and Compliance Manager. She took the lead in collective negotiations for that company in Auckland and Dunedin and gained wide experience in the practical application of all aspects of employment law in a national setting. It was during this time that Diana became a Board Member for the Employers' Association. In 2008 she was invited to return to the Association as its Managing Solicitor.

A Chartered member of the Institute of Directors, Diana is currently a member of the Dunedin Kindergarten, Anglican Family Care and Otago Hockey Association Boards. Diana has also served as President of YWCA, a member of the Competenz Board, Employers’ Association Board and Otago Polytechnic Council. Diana is also an accredited LEADR mediator.  

David Browne  LLB, BA, MFA, Grad Dip Tch Sec

David joined our legal team in 2014 and has a background in law, education and publishing.

He earned his law degree from the University of Otago in 2009 and was admitted to the Bar at Dunedin High Court in 2010. He gained valuable 12 month post qualification legal experience with a south Otago firm handling civil matters, including tenancy, property and employment law.

Prior to entering the legal profession David was a successful New Zealand secondary school teacher and design principal of a busy team supplying creative marketing solutions for central North Island businesses.

David hails from the state of Virginia on the east coast of the US where he was an award winning chief photographer for a busy daily newspaper. For the past 17 years has called Aotearoa home.

Angela MacKenzie LLB BCom

Born and raised in Dunedin, Angela made the move to Southland in 2004 to practice in the area of employment law. She then decided to get into family law and has practiced in this area for almost eight years.

Angela has a varied background having worked for ACC, Department of Labour, ANZ and Commonwealth Bank with a stint at dairy farming in between.

She joined the Otago Southland Employers' Association in October 2016 and is enjoying working in the area of employment law again. Her approach is a practical one and she believes it is important to build a rapport with her clients and understand their business and their point of view. Finding a pragmatic and cost effective solution, whilst avoiding the many potholes on this path is a focus for her.

Outside of work Angela has a keen interest in sport and travelling and enjoys spending time with family and friends. She is also the Secretary for the Old Boys’ Football Club committee and as a converted Southlander a keen follower of the Southland Stags. 

John Rigby
Business Development Manager

John manages our relationships with Export NZ, Business Mentors NZ and our other important business partners throughout Otago and Southland.

John has spent the majority of his career in senior management roles with some of Australasia’s largest and diverse food manufacturing companies. He has also been involved in exporting to the Middle East and the Pacific Islands.

In his various roles John has acquired skills and experience in capital project and operations management, sales and marketing, logistics, financial management and industrial relations.

He has a Post Graduate Diploma in Business Administration from University of Auckland, is an active member of Business Mentors NZ and an Accredited Assessor of candidates for CapableNZ business management qualifications.

Leanne Humphrey
Professional Development Co-ordinator

OSEA welcomed Leanne to their team in September 2017.

Leanne event manages our training programmes and events.

Leanne is a NZ Professional Florist previously owning florist businesses in Southland and most recently a wedding and event business.  

She has a keen interest in keeping life simple with the theory that we never stop learning. 

Loretta Holland 

Health and Safety Adviser

Loretta's role is to provide high level health and safety advice to members. She also liaises with members regarding the OSEA's health and safety training. 

Loretta joined OSEA in June 2012, and has had a number of years administration experience.

Loretta and a team of consultants are available for all your Health and Safety requirements. 

Nadia Gauchet
Administration Manager

Nadia oversees administration, including our accounting and financial services.

Nadia joined us in June 2017 and has a number of years administration experience. 

Anne-Marie McKay
Member Services and Financial Services

Anne-Marie McKay

Anne-Marie is the first point of contact for receiving telephone calls and greeting members in our office, where her commitment to providing outstanding service is well respected amongst the Association's members. Anne-Marie also assists with the finances and always ensures a high quality administrative service.

Anne-Marie joined Employers’ Association in October 2007.


Meet our board 

Andrew Leys  -  President
Hospice Southland

Andrew recently moved back to Invercargill to take up the position of Chief Executive of Hospice Southland.

Previously, Andrew has held the position of CEO for Credit Union South. In 2001 Andrew's achievements were recognised by the World Council of Credit Unions when he was he inaugural winner of the WOCCU Young Credit Union Professional Award.

Other appointments include director of the NZ Association of Credit Unions, and President of the Chamber of Commerce Southland.

Stuart McLauchlan  
GS McLauchlan & Co

Stuart is a chartered accountant, partner of GS McLauchlan & Co. 

He is a fellow of Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand and a chartered fellow of the Institute of Directors.

Stuart is currently chairman of Scott Technology Ltd, PHARMAC, UDC Finance Ltd and Dunedin International Airport Ltd, as well as being a director of a number of private companies. He is also pro-chancellor at the University of Otago and governor of the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame.

Sharon Paterson
Waikaka Station Ltd

Sharo is a director / owner in a family Sheep and Beef farm “Waikaka Station Ltd.”  Married with two grown married sons. She worked for six years in the corporate world as a Rural Manager on the road for an Insurance company.

Currently she is secretary/event manager for Southern Field Days, the second largest agricultural based field days in New Zealand.    

Michael Turner
Polson Higgs

Michael is a Fellow Chartered Accountant (FCA) with the Accounting and Business Advisory firm Polson Higgs working with large and small businesses mainly in the tax area. He has been advising clients for 26 years and has been a Partner for the last 16 years. He is passionate about business and in particular how to minimise the impact of taxation on business.  

Kate Skeggs
Bank of New Zealand

Kate is a Commercial, International Trade and Cashflow Partner with Bank of New Zealand, based in Queenstown and working with clients in the Central Otago Southern Lakes region. Kate has been in the banking industry since 2004 when she graduated from the University of Otago with Commerce and Science degrees. 

Kate is also on the Board of Invest South.

Warwick Hawker

Central Otago District Council

Warwick is the Economic Development Manager with the Central Otago District Council where he works on the policies and processes that help members of the Central Otago community improve their economic and social well-being.  

Prior to joining the CODC Warwick was with the New Zealand public service, much of the time with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. His assignments included Ambassador to Iran and High Commissioner to Tonga.

Joanne Conroy
Property Manager/Director, APL Property 

Joanne is based in Queenstown, where she has lived since 1984. She has worked most of that time in the property industry with a focus on commercial and government property. Most recently Joanne owned APL Property Queenstown and although she has recently sold the business she continues to provide Property Advisory to the Company.

Joanne has a number of Governance positions including as Chair of the South Island Trust Board of St John, member of the Priory Trust Board of St John, Trustee of the Queenstown Lakes Community Housing Trust and she is a member of the Board for the Property Advisory Council of the New Zealand Property Institute. Having long been a user of the OSEA services, most particularly continuing education, Joanne joined the Board at the beginning of 2016.  

Lesley Brook
Otago Polytechnic

Lesley is employed in the Research and Enterprise office of Otago Polytechnic, with a focus on delivering research by staff and students that benefits industry and the wider community. Previously Lesley was a lawyer for 22 years, leaving practice in September 2014 after 13 years as a partner in the firm Anderson Lloyd. During that period she practiced continuously in employment law, amongst other things.

She has previously served on the Council of Telford Rural Polytechnic, until its merger with Lincoln University, and is currently on the Audit and Risk Committee of the Cancer Society (Otago/Southland) and the Board of Rotary District 9980.

Hamish Sutherland
Zeagold Foods

Hamish is the General Manager of Zeagold Foods, the egg division of Mainland Poultry. Zeagold is now ranked within the top 30 suppliers of branded goods to supermarkets in New Zealand. He moved south from Auckland at the inception of Mainland Poultry 18 years ago.

Prior to commencing at Mainland, Hamish was the General Manager Marketing for Goodman Fielder Milling and Baking.