Keynote Speakers

Meet our keynote speakers for Conference 2024

Hon. Penny Simmonds ONZM - Minister for the Environment (TBC)

Penny Simmonds is the Member of Parliament for Invercargill, elected in 2020. At the 2023 General Election, Penny retained the seat of Invercargill and became the Minister for Disability Issues, the Environment, Tertiary Education and Skills as well as the Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment.  She is a member of the Cabinet Appointments and Honours, the Cabinet Economic Policy Committee and the Cabinet Social Outcomes Committee.

Prior to her election to MP, Penny was Chief Executive of Southern Institute of Technology (SIT) from 1997 – 2020. Penny was an Advisory Board Member of Venture Southland, has been involved in the Southland Regional Development Strategy since its inception and was on the Shareholders Advisory Board of the newly formed Economic Development Agency for Southland. She was a Trustee of Community Trust South from 2012 to 2019, and Chair from 2018 to 2019, and Director of Southern Lakes English College. She was Chair of Hockey Southland for 10 years finishing that role in 2017 when she also completed 2 years as President of New Zealand Hockey. Penny is also a former Director of the Southland Museum and Art Gallery and former Board Member of the Southland District Health Board and Southland disAbilities Services. Penny was a recipient of the Woolf Fisher Fellowship in 2000.

Penny was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the 2016 New Years’ Honours list. Penny is married with three adult daughters and four grandchildren. 

Hon. Chris Bishop Minister Responsible for RMA Reform (TBC)

Chris Bishop is the Minister of Housing, Minister for Infrastructure, Minister Responsible for RMA Reform, Minister for Sport and Recreation, Leader of the House, and Associate Minister of Finance. He is the MP for Hutt South.


Chris was born and raised in Lower Hutt where he lives with his wife and young son. He has a first-class Honours degree in Law and a Bachelor of Arts from Victoria University of Wellington and was the 2006 Young Wellingtonian of the Year. Before serving as an MP, Chris worked as a researcher for the National Party in Opposition and was later an advisor to Ministers in the John Key-led Government. 

Chris was the National Party Campaign Chair for the 2023 General Election.

Alicia McKay - leading expert in strategy and change

Alicia McKay is a leading authority on strategy, change, and leadership, empowering leaders to make better decisions, challenge unhelpful norms, and turn good intentions into meaningful action.

She's an expert facilitator and a celebrated author and speaker. Her books, 'From Strategy to Action' and 'You Don’t Need An MBA,' challenge leadership myths and offer practical insights. Alicia also founded 'Not An MBA,' a program turning leaders into savvy strategists. She consults with primarily public sector clients in New Zealand and Australia, specialising in local government. Alicia lives in Wellington, New Zealand, with her three children. 

Brad Olsen is one of New Zealand’s leading economic commentators across TV, radio, and print media. With extensive networks across New Zealand’s business, media, community, and social sectors, Brad brings together a variety of influential views, data, and emerging trends to inform and advise key decision makers and the public across New Zealand so they can make better informed decisions. Brad is passionate about using economics to make better informed decisions and can communicate complex and detailed trends in a simple, relatable, and useful manner.

Brad is a community leader and is one of New Zealand’s youngest Justices of the Peace. He serves on the Board of Business Central, and his work in the community has been recognised a number of times: he was named New Zealand’s Queen’s Young Leader in 2016, one of Asia New Zealand Foundation’s 25 to Watch in 2019, and Young Wellingtonian of the Year 2020. 

Charlotte Downes is the Programme Director for The Diversity Agenda, the award-winning movement committed to helping the architecture and engineering consulting industry become more diverse and inclusive, through awareness, empowerment and action. The Diversity Agenda has grown since inception to more than 150 members across the country and nearly 60 Chief Executives and business owners signing the Diversity Agenda Accord and being held publicly accountable for achieving truly diverse industries.

Former professional boxer, Dave Letele (AKA Brown Buttabean), is a South Auckland community leader who uses his platform to advocate for families in need. Having grown up with a father who was the president of the Mongrel Mob and in and out of prison throughout his childhood, Dave understands what it means to struggle. It took Dave a near-death experience to pull him out of a downward spiral. From there, he embarked on a journey that led to him owning several businesses, playing rugby league all over the world, becoming a professional boxer, losing almost 100 kg in body weight, and starting over.

Dave is an inspiration to thousands of Kiwis, achieving his transformation purely through hard work and dedication. Starting his platform via his private Facebook group where over 10,000 people have achieved life-changing levels of weight loss, Dave went on to found his company Buttabean Motivation (BBM), where he and his team are currently working with public health and social service providers across Auckland to deliver his highly effective BBM programs to improve the health outcomes for obese people.

Often consulted by the media, and even the former Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, Dave's bold and no-nonsense approach has changed thousands of lives in his community and around New Zealand. In 2022, Dave was awarded with the Kiwibank New Zealand Local Hero of the year Award for his incredible work across Aotearoa.

  • L’Rey Renata - (Tainui, Ngā-puhi, Ngai Te Rangi) - PhD candidate (redefining engineering best practice through an indigenous te ao Māori lens) at Auckland University, and Water Engineer at GHD

L’Rey is a descendant of Tainui, Ngāpuhi, Ngai Te Rangi and European heritage. She currently works for GHD as a water engineer and is in her provisional year of doctoral studies aiming to ‘Redefine Engineering Best Practice through an Indigenous Te Ao Māori lens'.

L’Rey utilises mātauranga, tikanga Māori, technical knowledge and industry experience to influence engineering practice and solutions. She contributes on the UsedFully Board, ACE NZ Māori Leadership Forum, Plastic Packaging Forum, CIRCUIT Board and Repair Cafe Board.

L’Rey was born and raised in South Auckland where she currently lives with her two beautiful children. 

Dr Paul Smith has led Consumer NZ's independent product testing since 2014, empowering people to make informed purchase decisions. He has transformed Consumer's product advice so only long-lasting products that are satisfying to own get recommended.

Paul is a leading voice in the Aotearoa repairability movement. He advocates for a Right to Repair and a change to the broken system that sees too many ‘durable’ products sent to landfill. 


Paul moved from the UK to Aotearoa in 2004, educating product designers and engineers of the future at Massey and Victoria universities and working in furniture design, before moving to Consumer. He tries to walk the talk, buying less and buying well, and embed that thinking into his two teenage kids (not always successfully).


He knows the future will be one of product custodianship – where we cherish and value the products we use – but we need to fight the system to get there, “We need product design that embraces repair and durability if we're to create a sustainable, circular economy".

Dr Rod Carr has extensive experience in both public and private sector governance and leadership. He served as Chair and non-executive director of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand and served as Deputy Governor and for a time Acting Governor of the Bank. Dr Carr was the founding Chair of the National Infrastructure Advisory Board and for over a decade was a non-executive director of the Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce. 

He led the University of Canterbury as Vice Chancellor for ten years, and holds a PhD in Insurance and Risk Management, an MA in Applied Economics and Managerial Science, an MBA in Money and Finance and honours degrees in law and economics.