Kerensa Johnston is Chief Executive of the Nelson based Wakatū Incorporation, which she joined as its General Counsel in December 2012. Founded in 1977, Wakatū has approximately 4,000 shareholders who descend from the original Māori land owners of the Nelson, Tasman and Golden Bay Regions – Te Tau Ihu. Wakatū now has an asset base of more than $350 millon, and with 70% of these assets held in land and waterspace Wakatū manages a diverse portfolio from vineyards and orchards to residential properties, large retail developments, office buildings, marine farms and waterspace. Under the direction of its 500-year intergenerational plan, Te Pae Tawhiti, Wakatū Group oversees Whenua (Property), Kono NZ LP (its export food and drinks business) and Manaaki (People and Culture), which delivers development and capability programmes to Wakatū owners as well as cultural and HR oversight of approximately 500 employees.
Kerensa is also a lawyer who has worked as a solicitor in the private sector, and as a legal academic at the Faculty of Law, University of Auckland, where she specialised in Māori legal development, public law and land law. She is a graduate of Victoria University of Wellington, where she was awarded a BA in History and a LLB. She has a Masters in Laws in International Law (First Class Honours) from the University of Auckland and is a member of the International Association of Corporate Counsel, Corporate Lawyers’ New Zealand and Te Hunga Roia Māori o Aotearoa.