- Shannon Harnett CA’s love of farming started as a child in Manawatu and Central Hawkes Bay.
- Since gaining her CA designation in 2010, she has worked in rural public practice and horticultural start-ups.
- She was awarded a 2020 Nuffield Scholarship for rural leaders, the first CA to gain that honour.
By Shannon Harnett CA
I was born in Wellington, NZ in 1979, but we moved to the Kapiti Coast a few weeks after. Being the first child born, I got the big portrait – much to the later amusement of my siblings. My love of farming began when we moved to a rural property in the Manawatu, then to a sheep and beef farm at Central Hawkes Bay.
My primary schooling was at Wimbledon School with one teacher, one classroom and 17-24 children. Come 1986 and the rural community was shaken by neoliberal “Rogernomics” and the abolition of farmer subsidies. Many families had to sell their properties. My family hung in there, with the advantage of my mother being a chartered accountant and going back to work.
While at boarding school in Masterton, I embraced my passion for agriculture and keenly worked on our farm during the holidays. At the time there were very few women working on the land and my parents encouraged me to go to Massey University in Palmerston North, where I got a Bachelor of Business Studies in Accounting and Management. I later completed a Graduate Diploma in AgriCommerce.
Receiving my CA qualification in 2010 was a huge achievement as I’d always been a rather average student. Like many, I also juggled raising a family. Georgie was five at the time and I had Anna a few years later. I also got my private pilot’s licence that year. I worked in public practice, with a strong emphasis towards rural accounting. The heady times of the dairy industry peaked in 2013, followed by the devastatingly sharp decline in milk price the year after.
I joined Rockit Apple in Havelock North as financial controller and loved it from the first moment. (Rockit apples are a natural hybrid of Gala and Gala x Splendour varieties.) I’d focused on dry stock and dairy all my life so moving into horticulture was exciting. The challenges of being in a start-up company were so much fun. The practical experience I gained at Rockit gave me skills I use today as a director and 50% owner of a rural public practice, aptly called Rural Accountants Whakatane. The majority of my time is focused on directorships in horticultural syndicates.
I applied for and was awarded a 2020 Nuffield Scholarship. As far as I’m aware, I’m the only CA to have this privilege. The scholarship is for rural leaders to travel around the world to learn from other countries’ primary sector industries. We were half a day into the induction conference in Brisbane in March 2020 when the call came to come home. Lockdown came a week later. The travel will resume when the borders open up. I plan to research the value that Plant Variety Rights could contribute to New Zealand's horticultural and primary industry sectors.
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