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Mrs Johnston, who recently completed the Agri-Women’s Development Trust’s Escalator leadership programme, is chairwoman of IrrigationNZ and a director of environmental consultancy Irricon Resource Solutions.
Through her governance and leadership roles she aimed to help combat climate change by educating people on how
they could best manage their water resources.
Mrs Johnston grew up on a farm in North Otago. She completed an engineering degree at the University of Canterbury, as she always liked maths and science at school.
Balancing her various roles got easier as her children, now aged 15 and 18, got older.
"There’s more flexibility and my husband is very supportive," she said.
At Irricon, she and other staff used their combined expertise to work with different farming companies and councils to meet the needs of their client. She established this business with two other women so they could work from home and communicate more easily with clients throughout Canterbury and Otago.
Wanting to continue to build her knowledge in governance and leadership, she applied for the Escalator leadership programme in 2019.
Escalator is an established leadership and governance programme for women involved in primary industries and rural communities.
The programme taught women the communication skills, confidence and support they would need to govern in their fields. The programme was meant to be 10 months, but instead ran for 15 months, due to Covid-19, and she finished in April.
A positive thing Mrs Johnston took away from her experience was building strong relationships with the other women. She and the other women kept in touch throughout lockdown, so it did not feel like they were apart, she said.
"I met 13 amazing women to add to my network and now I can take on the world".
The programme selected only 14 women each year, out of 80 other applicants, during the time Mrs Johnston applied. She was happy she applied, as she was inspired by the people she met.
"It’s about women making a difference."
Mrs Johnston was passionate about educating communities and helping build a resilient country.
"There needs to be more conversation around water and water storage,"she said.
- By Natasha Parrant