A winter soldier

The Business Roundtable’s week just past was dominated by tributes to the organisation’s  founding chair and business icon the late Sir Ron Trotter.  The week ended with another significant milestone, the departure of Rob McLeod (Ngati Porou) as Business Roundtable chair, and the election of Roger Partridge to succeed him.  

Rob has been chairman since 2002 and led the organisation through one of the more challenging periods in its history and an environment generally unconducive to advancing much needed economic reforms.  Rob, whose depth of interest in and understanding of economics and public policy is rare in business today, proved a true winter soldier and an outstanding leader, winning widespread respect across business, politics and Maoridom.   

As well as leading much of our work on tax and related matters, Rob shaped and led Te Oranga o te Iwi Maori: A Study of Maori Economic and Social Progress, a multi-author study of factors and institutions that have influenced Maori development and ways of building on past achievements.  He frequently drew attention to his deep concerns about Maori underachievement in education and the extent of unemployment among young Maori, and his interest in seeing affirmative action programmes in private firms.  In 2006 Rob was named Outstanding Maori Business Leader of the Year by the University of Auckland Business School.  

Rob recently served on the government’s Tax Working Group and its Capital Market Development Taskforce, and was a member of the Maori Economic Development Ministerial Taskforce, the Independent Ministerial Advisory Panel for the Defence Review and the National Infrastructure Advisory Board. He is also Chief Negotiator for Te Runanga o Ngati Porou in relation to their treaty claim with the Crown.

It’s worth noting that the role of chair is a voluntary one with a significant time commitment and Rob’s contribution has been huge. He leaves the organisation in excellent heart, with a strong and growing membership and plenty of resolve to maintain the momentum for improving New Zealand’s public policies.   Rob moved to Sydney in July to take up the role of managing partner, Ernst & Young, for Australia and New Zealand.

Members warmly welcomed incoming chair Roger Partridge (chairman, Bell Gully), another top commercial lawyer and high-calibre individual with a strong track record in public policy and law reform.

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Eras beginning and ending

Welcome to my new blog.  A self-confessed technophobe, I thought it high time I ventured into the blogosphere and joined the era of new media.  I plan to comment here from time to time on public policy, economics and matters of related interest. 

The launch of this blog coincides with the end of another era, a very significant one in the history of New Zealand business and public life.  The death last week of Sir Ronald Trotter, one of New Zealand’s true heroes, saw hundreds of tributes flow from friends, colleagues and admirers from around the world.  Among his many leadership roles in business and public affairs, Ron was the founding chairman of the New Zealand Business Roundtable and led the business community through a necessary period of profound and painful adjustment to the benefit of New Zealand as a whole. 

In 1995 we inaugurated the annual Sir Ronald Trotter Lecture in Ron’s honour.  The inaugural lecturer, Chicago Professor Richard Epstein, arguably the most brilliant legal scholar of our times, wrote last week of respect for Ron that “comes from a life dedicated to an excellence of character and judgment and of good deeds that are universally known and respected.”

Yesterday family and friends packed Old St Paul’s in Wellington for a most fitting and uplifting send-off that Ron himself would have thoroughly enjoyed.  I was honoured to be invited by the family to make this tribute to Ron.  As Ron’s long-time colleague Sir Roderick Weir noted, Ron rose to the top of business because of his wonderful nature: “Everyone liked him”, Rod said.  Ron will be greatly missed.