Wahine Māori in higher places

By Jessica Tyson

Trialblazer Laurissa Cooney, of Te Āti Haunui-a-Pāpārangi, has been appointed to Air New Zealand’s Board of Directors.

Cooney is also a professional independent Director with several iwi affiliated entities as well as Chief Financial Officer for Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi.

The proud mother of four is a Director of Tourism Bay of Plenty and several iwi affiliated entities around New Zealand. 

Air New Zealand Chairman Dame Therese Walsh says Cooney will bring a strong regional tourism and iwi perspective to the Board.

“She will strengthen the board with a new depth of perspective to some of the key stakeholder groups and communities that are highly important to the airline’s future success.  Alongside this she brings strong commercial skills and a passion for leadership, which is reflected in her current doctoral studies on the topic.”

Cooney is also an Independent Director on the Audit & Risk Committee of Ngā Tāngata Tiaki Trust, a post-treaty settlement entity in Whanganui, she said in an article by the Board of Directors.

"We were involved in the work which resulted in the Crown’s recognition of the Whanganui River as a legal entity. I’m also an Independent Director on the Audit & Risk Committee of Te Ātihau Whanganui Incorporation, a Māori-owned farming company based at the foothills of Matua te Mana, Mt Ruapehu.  Its purpose is to rejuvenate the land for our people and reconnect them to their land and customs."

She said her “deep desire to influence society positively” is what made her pursue a career in governance

“Also, Māori women and younger voices are few and far between around board tables.  I am committed to be that initial person who others can relate to and see themselves in so they can be motivated to step into the space.”

Outside of work, Cooney is passionate about her whanau and her studies.

“I’m also currently studying towards a professional doctorate, researching how wairua and energy awareness and practice, healing and evolving consciousness apply in the leadership and governance space, she said.

“There was a time in the past it was almost taboo to talk about spirituality in a business context, and perhaps it still is in some areas. For me, especially as a Māori leader, it’s essential to see spirituality entwined in everything, and to bring these values strongly into the leadership arena.”

Cooney also previously held senior auditing and consulting roles with Deloitte in New Zealand and Deloitte Touche in London. She will be up for election by shareholders at the Annual Shareholders’ Meeting next year.