Attracted to back story, and the people

GOING UP NEAR RUATORIA: Rua Bioscience is building a 8000m2 secure site near Ruatoria, which will be a cultivation facility. An update on its facility at Commerce Place, Gisborne is expected this week. Pictures supplied
Rua Bioscience chairman Trevor Burt.

A former executive for a multinational, Trevor Burt is the first independent chairman of medicinal cannabis company Rua Bioscience. Matai O’Connor spoke with him about why he wanted to be part of this company, and plans for the future.

Trevor Burt is looking forward to the challenges his new role as independent chair of Rua Bioscience will bring.

The Christchurch-based director has many years of experience in business and governance roles. He was a member of the executive board of The Linde Group, a world-leading supplier of industrial, process and speciality gases — holding positions with the company across China, North America and Europe before returning to New Zealand in 2008.

Mr Burt is the chair of New Zealand Lamb Company North America and a director of Silver Fern Farms, Market Gardeners and Landpower Group. He is also a former chair of Ngai Tahu Holdings and Lyttelton Port Company, and previous director of PGG Wrightson and MainPower.

“What really captured me was the back story of how Rua Bioscience was founded, and the community and social roots this predominantly iwi-based organisation has,” Mr Burt said.

“I didn’t want to enter the industry as such, it was the interesting purpose from an interesting company that works with interesting people that drew me in.

“I was quite impressed when I met Manu Caddie and Panapa Ehau and learnt about the kaupapa they’re on.

“I like the people, the space and the reason why they are trying to do what they want to do.”

He also felt he had a background that worked nicely with what Rua Bioscience — formerly Hikurangi Cannabis Company Ltd — was trying to do.

“I wanted to pursue a career more in governance roles rather than as operating chief executive,” Mr Burt said.

“I reached the highest position you could get within a globally-listed company.

“Having been a chief executive, I know it’s a pretty demanding and full-on job.

“It’s not that I wanted to retire. It’s just I wanted to do things differently.”

Being the chair of Rua Bioscience will certainly be a different role to what he is used to.

“I like to think that, looking at the ownership of Rua as it is now, you have Hikurangi Hemp Holdings and the community-based group that hold a significant shareholding, and the rest is held by ‘professional investor types’ — and so a big part of the role I think I will be playing is providing a bridge between the two.

“The aspiration for good financial return, working in conjunction with the aspiration for improving a local community and keeping indigenous roots throughout the company.”

He said he did not see a tension in doing that, but getting the alignment would be a constant challenge — and one he was looking forward to.

“Trying to keep the organisation grounded and quite real will be a challenge.”

There would be a whole number of benefits from Rua Bioscience that could help the East Coast and New Zealand.

“In tangible terms just the employment opportunities that could be created, in a more broader sense the whole mana of a community can be enhanced by doing something that plays on a global stage.

“It’s something that, if we can be successful, will bring value back into the community,” Mr Burt said.

The medical marijuana industry would go through phases, he said.

“We are in the gold rush phase — there’s a lot of interest and entities wanting to start up and get involved.

“A lot of them are chasing new opportunities.

“Those that are successful long term will need some real meaning and purpose behind what they’re doing.

“We believe firmly that indigenous link with a values-based organisation with roots in the East Coast community gives us a point of differentiation that will be valued on a global stage.

“Entities will look into more than just what the company is but where it comes from and the ownership base it has.

“We have this sort of approach where we keep our head down, we like to do some things, feed those things and then say those things —rather than putting everything out there, saying we will do this and do that.

“Once we have reached milestones along the way then we can tout our successes.”

Mr Burt said he was interested in the pending legislation around medicinal cannabis.

“Everything is on track for it to be there by the new year, which gives us a licence to operate our business and commercially sell product internationally — and the chance for us to execute the strategy we have.”

Rua Bioscience is getting ready for the medicinal cannabis industry with facilities being developed in Gisborne (an update on which is expected this week) and Ruatoria.

“For the community in Ruatoria, seeing the building go up and watching development happen must be pretty exciting,” he said.

A former executive for a multinational, Trevor Burt is the first independent chairman of medicinal cannabis company Rua Bioscience. Matai O’Connor spoke with him about why he wanted to be part of this company, and plans for the future.

Trevor Burt is looking forward to the challenges his new role as independent chair of Rua Bioscience will bring.

The Christchurch-based director has many years of experience in business and governance roles. He was a member of the executive board of The Linde Group, a world-leading supplier of industrial, process and speciality gases — holding positions with the company across China, North America and Europe before returning to New Zealand in 2008.

Mr Burt is the chair of New Zealand Lamb Company North America and a director of Silver Fern Farms, Market Gardeners and Landpower Group. He is also a former chair of Ngai Tahu Holdings and Lyttelton Port Company, and previous director of PGG Wrightson and MainPower.

“What really captured me was the back story of how Rua Bioscience was founded, and the community and social roots this predominantly iwi-based organisation has,” Mr Burt said.

“I didn’t want to enter the industry as such, it was the interesting purpose from an interesting company that works with interesting people that drew me in.

“I was quite impressed when I met Manu Caddie and Panapa Ehau and learnt about the kaupapa they’re on.

“I like the people, the space and the reason why they are trying to do what they want to do.”

He also felt he had a background that worked nicely with what Rua Bioscience — formerly Hikurangi Cannabis Company Ltd — was trying to do.

“I wanted to pursue a career more in governance roles rather than as operating chief executive,” Mr Burt said.

“I reached the highest position you could get within a globally-listed company.

“Having been a chief executive, I know it’s a pretty demanding and full-on job.

“It’s not that I wanted to retire. It’s just I wanted to do things differently.”

Being the chair of Rua Bioscience will certainly be a different role to what he is used to.

“I like to think that, looking at the ownership of Rua as it is now, you have Hikurangi Hemp Holdings and the community-based group that hold a significant shareholding, and the rest is held by ‘professional investor types’ — and so a big part of the role I think I will be playing is providing a bridge between the two.

“The aspiration for good financial return, working in conjunction with the aspiration for improving a local community and keeping indigenous roots throughout the company.”

He said he did not see a tension in doing that, but getting the alignment would be a constant challenge — and one he was looking forward to.

“Trying to keep the organisation grounded and quite real will be a challenge.”

There would be a whole number of benefits from Rua Bioscience that could help the East Coast and New Zealand.

“In tangible terms just the employment opportunities that could be created, in a more broader sense the whole mana of a community can be enhanced by doing something that plays on a global stage.

“It’s something that, if we can be successful, will bring value back into the community,” Mr Burt said.

The medical marijuana industry would go through phases, he said.

“We are in the gold rush phase — there’s a lot of interest and entities wanting to start up and get involved.

“A lot of them are chasing new opportunities.

“Those that are successful long term will need some real meaning and purpose behind what they’re doing.

“We believe firmly that indigenous link with a values-based organisation with roots in the East Coast community gives us a point of differentiation that will be valued on a global stage.

“Entities will look into more than just what the company is but where it comes from and the ownership base it has.

“We have this sort of approach where we keep our head down, we like to do some things, feed those things and then say those things —rather than putting everything out there, saying we will do this and do that.

“Once we have reached milestones along the way then we can tout our successes.”

Mr Burt said he was interested in the pending legislation around medicinal cannabis.

“Everything is on track for it to be there by the new year, which gives us a licence to operate our business and commercially sell product internationally — and the chance for us to execute the strategy we have.”

Rua Bioscience is getting ready for the medicinal cannabis industry with facilities being developed in Gisborne (an update on which is expected this week) and Ruatoria.

“For the community in Ruatoria, seeing the building go up and watching development happen must be pretty exciting,” he said.

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