Kupe news


It was an honour to Welcome Sam Judd as our guest speaker for the June Kupe Leadership Breakfast. Co-Founder and CEO of Sustainable Coastlines, Sam turned down a career in law to dedicate his time to protecting New Zealand’s coastlines and waterways, a cause that he cares deeply about.

Sam and his team create impact through beach clean-ups, tree planting and educational programmes that are delivered throughout New Zealand, from primary schools to prisons. Their national reach and commitment to a wide range of initiatives are critical to achieving their vision of Beautiful Beaches, Healthy Waters and Inspired People.

Sam JuddThe problems of plastic pollution in our oceans and increased nitrates and sediment in our waterways, like many adaptive leadership issues, are complex and mutli-faceted, and call for a more holistic approach. Sam spoke of Sustainable Coastlines’ role in education, public awareness campaigns, supporting policy reform through their extensive data collection and evaluation and even involvement in new product design to eradicate some of the sources of pollution.

Named Young New Zealander of the Year in 2013, Sam is passionate about enabling others and supporting local community-based projects from the ground up. He spoke of the importance of really understanding what people’s drivers are, helping facilitate their emotional connection with the issues facing our environment, and then providing opportunities for them to get involved. It is this combination, Sam believes, that can enable effective behavioural change. “We’ve realised that the issues that we are tackling are so big that there’s no way we can fix them all. The only way to try to scale this impact we’re looking for is to help local people to do it”.

Sam’s success to date can largely be attributed to his ability to think outside the box, finding innovative ways to engage others and capitalise on opportunities to expand their impact. He is also not afraid to muck in and get his hands dirty, quite literally, with tree planting events and beach clean-ups. His infectious energy and passion for his work were clearly evident as he shared some of the highs and lows of his leadership journey to date in an account that was at times deeply personal and reflective and at others a source of real motivation and inspiration for the audience.

The award winning Flagship Education Centre is one of the more recent success stories initiated by the team at Sustainable Coastlines, showcasing sustainable construction and regenerative design. Located in Auckland’s Wynyard Quarter, it is made out of 85% salvaged materials and includes an innovative roofing system that can decompose airborne pollutants.

In addition to the environmental outcomes they are seeking, Sam is equally attuned to the cultural and social value of their work. In addressing the costs associated with purchasing plants or fabricating materials for the construction of the Flagship Education Centre, Sam saw an opportunity to partner with the Department of Corrections. A nursery was established by inmates at Waikeria prison to supply trees for planting events, while serious offenders were given opportunities to learn welding and other skills that could provide them with a new pathway following release from prison. “Not only are we creating a sustainable building but we are also looking at reducing reoffending at the same time by giving these guys skills’.

Our sincere thanks to Sam for an inspirational and thought-provoking session.


On Friday 17th May, we hosted the first of a series of Leadership Breakfasts with our Kupe Leadership Scholars and invited guests. We were honoured to have Sir Kim Workman as our speaker at this event, who shared an honest and humble account of his leadership journey, from his schooling days to the present.

Sir Kim has devoted his life to social justice and has been a tireless campaigner for criminal justice reform. His work has recently earned him a knighthood in the New Year’s Honours List, yet he remains incredibly grounded and focussed on his work as an ‘active disrupter’. “My life is about speaking out against injustice. That is what I was meant to do”.

His journey has required resilience, courage, determination and, at times, a good sense of humour, but has taught him a great deal about leadership. “Up until 1995 I’d been this very bureaucratic directional leader…but I was starting to realise what leadership is about – a true leader doesn’t hog the limelight, they sit back and encourage other people to ‘eat first’ as it were, to be nourished and supported”.

Sir Kim Workman2He acknowledges that at one stage, the prospect of becoming a powerful, well-paid CEO was an appealing one, but his leadership story has never placed himself as ‘leader’ at the centre. He has had to put ego and personal ambition aside in order to speak the truth and advocate for positive social change, and has learnt to celebrate the many failures as they in themselves can generate new ideas, open up dialogue and create new pathways forward.

Over recent years, he has been gaining traction in his quest to open up the discussion around prison reform and increase the number and diversity of people engaged in the conversation. He was instrumental in the formation of JustSpeak, a youth movement that emerged as an off-shoot of Sir Kim’s Rethinking Crime & Punishment project. “I realised that all the things I wanted would probably never be achieved in my lifetime. They might, if they’ve got any value, be achieved in someone else’s”.

On behalf of the Kupe Leadership Community, we wish to extend our thanks to Sir Kim for so generously sharing his time and wisdom with us.



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Taking advantage of the visit to New Zealand by the founding donor, John McCall MacBain, the University of Auckland arranged an evening function to officially launch the 2019 Kupe Leadership Scholarship programme. It was a wonderful opportunity to connect him with the other 10 donors who have generously supported the Kupe Leadership Scholarships, along with the Scholars and their Mentors. 

The event was also attended by other key stakeholders and invited guests, who were treated to a keynote address from Sir Peter Gluckman. In his address on The Critical Leadership Challenge: Democracy, Difficult Conversations and Truth-Decay, Sir Peter issued a challenge to the Scholars. Your potential to be leaders, to make a difference, comes at a critical time in our history as a species”.

Sir Peter spoke of the unrelenting need for leadership in tackling the emergent social, technological and environmental issues facing the globe. “Leadership will mean ensuring truth prevails, that citizens have access to robust knowledge, that we find ways to address the existential and difficult challenges ahead and get beyond the short-termism that prevails in much current discourse and politics”.

In addition, Stuart McCutcheon, Vice Chancellor of the University of Auckland interviewed John McCall MacBain on his commitment to philanthropy and the development of leadership, as well as his hopes for the Kupe Leadership Scholarships.

“We’re trying to create not just a pure academic scholarship but a scholarship that looks for those future leaders who may not be leaders today but who we see have the potential to lead…The interesting thing about giving scholarships is that your dream is that [the recipient] will go and change the world, but your downside case is that they change themselves and their family and their friends around them… So your failures are pretty successful, you’ve changed their lives”.

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Group photo with Dartmouth Scholars Piritahi maraeIn early March the 14 Kupe Leadership Scholars gathered at the beautiful Piritahi Marae on Waiheke Island to commence their year-long leadership programme.

Throughout the Orientation weekend, the Scholars explored the concepts of manaakitangi, whanaungatanga and kotahitanga, and put these into practice as they helped prepare meals, cook and clean, and began to get to know each other. Among tangata whenua of the marae who came to share their knowledge with the Scholars was Maikara Ropata, herself a descendent from Kupe, whose carving graces the inside of the meeting house. A series of activities, including waka ama in the nearby bay provided opportunities for discussion and reflection about leadership.

Sleeping in the wharenui was a special occasion and a first for many, as was having the privilege on Saturday of conducting the powhiri to welcome a contingent of students from Dartmouth College in the USA. The scholars had the opportunity to engage with a diverse group of leaders, from Bianca Ransom, who shared her experiences as a Maori entrepreneur and discussed her work with Maori prisoners, to Mike Maars, founder of the Waiheke Recycling Centre who illustrated what can be achieved through passion, commitment and a sense of purpose.

The Scholars arrived on the island as individuals, but left as a connected group who are excited about their shared journey ahead.


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After many months of planning and discussion, the inaugural Kupe Leadership Scholars have been confirmed. The 2019 Kupe Leadership Scholars were selected following a rigorous and competitive selection process. Candidates were required to complete a written application, with the shortlisted students being invited to engage in a full-day session that combined group activities with 1:1 interviews. The selection panel then had the challenging task of identifying the inaugural Kupe Leadership cohort from the talented pool of post-graduate students who applied. The successful Scholars represent a diverse array of disciplines across a number of faculties, but they each demonstrate evidence of leadership capability and share many commonalities in terms of their drive, determination, passion and humility.

AU Kupe Scholars 2018 011A2Canadian philanthropist John McCall McBain made a special visit to Auckland in December after his Foundation provided $1 million in seed funding to kick-start this initiative. The Kupe Leadership Scholars enjoyed the opportunity to meet with John and offer him some insight into their area of study, their passion and the difference they want to make for Aotearoa. 

Each of our 2019 Kupe Leadership Scholars have been assigned a mentor who will work with them to inform, challenge, support and nurture their leadership aspirations to help them make a meaningful contribution to New Zealand. Many Kupe Leadership Mentors are well-known to New Zealanders and have been hand-picked due to their expertise and experience.

The programme will consist of a series of workshops throughout the year where scholars will develop the mindset and leadership capabilities that will be so essential to their leadership work. We are very much looking forward to getting the formal programme underway and wish our scholars all the very best for the year ahead.