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, President of YWCA and a past member of the Competenz Board, Employers’ Association Board and Otago Polytechnic Council. Diana is also an accredited LEADR mediator.
 

Rachel Brazil  LLB
Senior Solicitor 

Rachel is a senior lawyer, having specialised in employment law for over ten years.

Initially working for the Employers’ Association for 3 years, Rachel specialised in all areas of industrial relations and employment law. This included preparing employment agreements; managing incapacity, disciplinary and performance issues; negotiation of collective employment agreements; assisting businesses with restructuring and redundancy situations; privacy law/human rights issues; personal grievances; organisational reviews; Mediation, Authority and Employment Court representation.

Subsequent to this, in September 2007, Rachel took the reins of the Dunedin branch of a private practice law firm continuing to specialise in employment law, creating a successful branch of the business that continues to this day. This developed Rachel’s experience, allowing her to continue providing employment advice to small, medium and large businesses and organisations as well as providing services to employees.

Rachel is very pleased to return to the Employers’ Association and continue her work providing a wide range of employment law services, including legal representation and advice on the interpretation and application of employment law, collective bargaining and supporting employers through challenging situations they may face through the litigation process including to the Employment Authority and/or Employment Court.  


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

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 Morgan-Roberts  LLB BCom
Solicitor

Born and raised in Dunedin, Angela made the move to Southland in 2004 to practise in the area of employment law. She then decided to get into family law and has practised 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 working in the area of employment again. Her approach is a practical one and believes it’s important to build a rapport with her clients and understand their point of view.

Outside of work Angela has a keen interest in sport and travelling. She enjoys spending time with family, friends and her fur babies. She is also Manager of the Premier team at Old Boys’ Football Club and as a converted Southlander a keen follower of the Southland Stags.


Chris Webb
Health and Safety Manager

Chris Webb is our new Health and Safety Manager who has recently joined us from Perth along with his family.

He has brought with him an extensive background in health, safety and training from law enforcement, military, mining and construction industries. In the Western Australian Training Awards, Chris has been acknowledged for his contribution towards training and some of the organisations he has worked for have also received industry recognition.

Chris is experienced in designing, developing and conducting nationally accredited and non-accredited training, implementing safety systems, auditing, investigations, risk management and contractor management.

He is a member of the Safety Institute of Australia, and the Institute’s Standards Review Committee for the proposed ISO 45001 Occupational Health and Safety, to replace AS/NZS 4801 Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems.

Chris is completing his Postgraduate Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety at Edith Cowan University, and has commenced postgraduate studies in the Social Psychology of Risk.
 

Kristen Gawn  RCpN, BPhEd, PGCertHealSc
Workplace Health and Safety Consultant 

Kristen Gawn

Kristen consults in all aspects of the Associations health and safety programme, including the design and delivery of Employers' health and safety training and expert advice to our members. She has a special interest area in musculo-skeletal injury prevention.

Kristen is very skilled at the design, maintenance and modification of the health and safety programmes required by the health and safety legislation.

Kristen’s dedication and commitment to the Association’s members has earned her a formidable reputation in the health and safety industry.

Previously Kristen has held several roles as a Health and Safety Specialist for major employers and has 20 years experience within the Health and Safety industry. Kristen joined the Employers’ Association in August 2006. 


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.


Joanne O'Connor
 MNZIM Dip. Mgt
Training Manager

Joanne has worked, since 2001, ensuring southern businesses have easy access to a suite of professional development training opportunities and events, tailored specifically to their unique needs.

A member of the Employers’ Association team since March 2010, Joanne continues to work closely with businesses, large and small, throughout Southland, Otago and Central Otago.

Joanne is a member of the SIT2LRN Business Advisory Committee. Away from the office, Joanne is the Southland Young Enterprise Scheme (Y.E.S.) Co-ordinator.   


Rachelle Blatch
 
Training and Events Co-ordinator

Rachelle work’s with the training team to deliver our training programmes.

Rachelle’s is a born and bred Southlander brought up on a farm just outside Invercargill. Rachelle’s passion for travelling persuaded her to live aboard in London before she settled back into Invercargill with her husband and is raising her family.

Rachelle’s career has seen her work in many administrative roles within a number of sectors, including medical, legal and manufacturing. She also brings a wealth of experience with computer programmes and support.

The Otago Southland Employers’ Association welcomed Rachelle to their team in March 2010. 


Loretta Holland 

Administration Support Health and Safety, HR and Legal

Loretta's role is to provide high level administrative assistance to the Employers’ Association team. She also liaises with members regarding the Association’s training, health and safety, and legal services.

Loretta joined Employers' Association in June 2012, and has had 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.
 


Linda Marchant

Financial Administrator

Linda has held executive support roles in the tertiary education and private sectors.

She joined the Employers’ Association in 2015 having returned to Dunedin after living in the UK for three years.

With an extensive background in administration, Linda brings a wide range of skills to the team.  
 

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.

  
Fraser Liggett

Enterprise Dunedin, Dunedin City Council 

Fraser is the Economic Development Programme Manager with Enterprise Dunedin. Fraser leads the implementation of the 2013-23 Economic Development Strategy and oversees projects such as Project China, Study Dunedin, Ara Toi, Food Resilience, Regional Business Partners, GigCity and business support.

Previously Fraser worked with Waitaki District Council, the National Infrastructure Unit of the Treasury and has managed a number of projects in the United Kingdom. Fraser is an internationally endorsed and accredited Better Business Case practitioner.


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.
 

Tony Allison
Night 'n Day

Since 2012 Tony has been CEO of the Night ‘n Day franchise Brand.

He is a Chartered Accountant and a Chartered Member of the Institute of Directors. Tony is currently a director at Dunedin International Airport, City Forests Limited and Smith City Limited.


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.