Andrew Olsen has been appointed as the new CEO of Rural Contractors NZ which represents 600 contractors in the $1.5b industry.

RCNZ vice president Helen Slattery says the former Chief Executive of the Travel Agents Association NZ stood out to the selection panel in a very strong field of candidates. “Our industry is facing some significant challenges particularly with labour shortages and the need to further boost our training. Andrew brings nearly 20 years’ experience as a CEO or GM and four years as a director of Service IQ, the Industry Training Organisation for the service sector.”

Helen Slattery says one of the new CEO’s first priorities when he starts the job next month is working with RCNZ and Government agencies to review last week’s Government announcement that only 125 skilled agricultural machinery operators can come from overseas next season. RCNZ had requested a minimum of 400 after surveying its members.

“Andrew is well versed at working with Ministers and officials on issues such as the assistance package to tourism after the onset of Covid-19. As our first full-time CEO, he will be picking up on the Government’s requirements for us to complete a sector workforce plan and develop a model to upskill New Zealanders to achieve the announced exemptions.

“We’re already working with polytechs, private trainers and our ITO Connexis but we appreciate there’s more to do. That said, we need some understanding about what we can train Kiwis to do out of season – and that even with the skills to drive specialised machinery, working a few months a year in rural locations doesn’t appeal to everyone.”

Helen Slattery says RCNZ members are facing stress and health & safety risks because of the shortage of skilled people available and willing to drive big machines through a season. “We have every confidence that Andrew is the right person to put our case and continue the excellent work done for us over the last 15 years by outgoing CEO Roger Parton.”  Mr Parton will be farewelled at RCNZ’s jubilee conference in Rotorua next month.

Andrew Olsen says he’s delighted at being able to take the helm of Rural Contractors NZ at a critical juncture. “Rural contractors are mostly small businesses as were most of the travel agents I worked for. I’m used to representing such interests to Government and the wider community. I believe I’m coming into Rural Contractors NZ at critical time for this important industry and am looking forward to attending next month’s conference as a start to engaging with members.”

Mr Olsen says while he has not worked previously in the sector, he lives a rural lifestyle in the Wairarapa and has experience of engaging with some local rural contractors.