PR man property company chair

By Julian Lee
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Westland District Property’s game of musical chairs has taken an unusual twist, with recently appointed board member, Tauranga-based Trustpower spin doctor Graeme Purches, being appointed chairman in a surprise announcement yesterday.
The property company is a subsidiary of Westland Holdings Ltd, which is owned entirely by the Westland District Council but can make its own decisions about appointments to its subsidiaries.
All of the property company directors resigned at the end of March claiming undue public pressure had forced them to step down. Director Durham Havill later changed his mind, explaining that the holding company had convinced him to stay on and chair the property board.
Mr Havill, a former long-serving Westland mayor, has now stepped down as chairman but retains his position on the board.
He told the Guardian he thought the company needed a new chairman, while he wanted to focus specifically on the Haast-Hollyford road proposal.
“I felt it needed a bit of a change and I’ve got a lot on my plate at the moment. My main job is to get the road through,” Mr Havill said.
Mr Purches was yesterday up front with what he had to offer the Hokitika-based company.
“I bring to the chair communications and relationship skills, along with first-hand knowledge and understanding of the rental property sector, and I believe importantly in this case, a healthy outside perspective as an independent director.”
He was enthusiastic about Westland Property’s current projects and endorsed their continuation.
“Westland is one of New Zealand’s go-ahead areas at the moment, so I see this as an exciting opportunity.
“Projects like the Hollyford road proposal only come along once in a lifetime, and being able to contribute to increased investment in housing and services for the elderly in Westland is something I have an interest in, having owned and operated a rental property business in partnership with my wife Jenny for the past 12 years.”
Mr Purches has never lived on the West Coast but said last month that he was not fazed by that.
“It’s not unusual with boards nowadays, it’s the 21st century and we can have conferences on-line. Here at Trustpower we only have one board member who lives in Tauranga.
“Boards generally look for those people who have the expertise and people who have the ability to look from an outside perspective. (Westland) Holdings were looking for an independent director who has no relationship at all with the shareholder.
“They wanted a fresh set of eyes and ears, someone to critically look at bringing a new set of ideas to the table.”
A former president of the Public Relations Institute of New Zealand, Mr Purches operated his own electronic manufacturing and servicing business for 14 years before turning to journalism and then public relations in the late
1980s.
He has been in senior public relations and communications management roles in the large industrial, public health and corporate sectors since 1990.