Changes at the helm of the New Zealand Rural Leadership Trust.

New Zealand rural Leadership team 2022
From left: Matt Hampton, Lisa Rogers, Hon Damien O'Connor, Annie Chant, Chris Parsons

Chris Parsons, CEO Rural Leaders has resigned after three years leading the Trust. Chris will take up a role with MyFarm Investments in May, where he will work closely with former NZRLT Chair and MyFarm CEO, Andrew Watters.

Under Chris’s leadership, characterised by strong purpose and gentle (but persuasive) direction, Rural Leaders has enjoyed a busy, effective and stimulating period of achievement.

“Chris’s contribution to NZRLT has been significant and impactful. Chris has helped to shape our purpose and contribute to growing world class leaders for New Zealand.

Under his leadership we have navigated many trying circumstances, including a global pandemic, but have emerged with a clear understanding of the needs of future leaders,” said Kate Scott, NZRLT Chair.

Here are some of the successes Chris has generated over the last three years. We have grouped these across four key areas: Programme Innovations, Projects, Presence and Partnerships, and Thought Leadership.

Programme Innovations

  • Kellogg PG Cert through Lincoln and RPL through Massey and Lincoln (96% uptake and 63 PG Certs awarded in the first 18 months).
  • Value Chain Innovation Programme, with Lincoln – to increase the entrepreneurial capabilities within the sector and to extend NZ Rural Leader’s impact.
  • undaunted by Covid, NZRLT actually increased the number of Kellogg Scholars and ran two regionally located programmes to increase the rural leadership bench in our regions.
  • Introduced geopolitics into Kellogg to better equip Scholars for a changing global environment.
  • Revitalised the Nuffield Scholarship, including a full review of the selection criteria.


  • Mackenzie Study, a world-class longitudinal study on the impact on NZ made by Nuffield and Kellogg Scholars over the last 72 years.
  • High-Performance Study with Lincoln University on behalf of MPI
  • Commissioned by the Food and Fibre CoVE to complete a major body of work to design an ecosystem for leadership development in NZ Food and Fibre Sector.

Presence and Partnerships

  • MoU with Massey, Lincoln and AGMARDT
    finalists in the inaugural B+LNZ & Rabobank people development awards.
  • Forged a relationship with the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation.
  • Built a closer working relationship with AWDT
    developed several regional partnerships (Whangarei A&P, Whanganui and Partners) to promote regional leadership growth.

Promote Thought Leadership

  • Established the Ideas that Grow podcast, hosted by AgriHQ to promote the thought leadership of our Scholars.
  • Established the Kellogg Insights Series that takes gives a thematic summary of Kellogg reports (eg Horticulture, dairy, Māori Agri business).
  • Upgraded the website and lifted the report quality to make Scholars thought leadership more accessible.

The Rural Leaders Team continue to build on many of these achievements. Chris, the NZRLT Board and leadership team have set into motion several initiatives set to generate further positive outcomes in the near future.

On the strong foundations Chris has helped set, we will continue to deliver outstanding leadership for the sector and look forward continuing to work alongside Chris in his new role,” added Kate Scott, NZRLT Chair.

Our programmes work in partnership with some of New Zealand’s leading agribusiness organisations – click here for more.​