Talk about a career woman. Queenstowner Jane Taylor has been a forester, an accountant and a lawyer and today juggles family life with roles as a company director and a planning commissioner. She talks to Philip Chandler
It’s often said that Queenstown’s lucky because many of the country’s most talented people choose to live here.
One example is former North Islander Jane Taylor.
Mid-50s Taylor is best-known locally as a planning hearing chairman.
In government circles, however, she’s also highly regarded as a company director and last year was appointed to chair Crown research institute Landcare Research.
Those roles apart, she’s one of those rare people who’ve trained and practised as both a chartered accountant and a barrister.
Growing up in the Coromandel, however, she wanted to be a Department of Conservation ranger - “I used to spend a lot of time, right from a child, either on the water or in the bush”.
After attending Auckland’s Epsom Girls’ Grammar as a boarder, her first degree, in fact, was in forestry science.
She was encouraged to join the industry by the then Forest Service, which needed to attract women after the government passed equal opportunities legislation.
Taylor became a district forester in Thames and then Northland, working out in the field.
Then she applied to work at head office in Wellington so she could complete a postgraduate diploma in accounting and finance at Victoria University.
After qualifying, she worked for a large dairy company in the Bay of Plenty as its financial controller.
She then joined an Auckland accountancy firm, becoming a partner in 1988.
After the 1987 sharemarket crash, she ran major litigation as a receiver and liquidator.
“I ended up getting to know insolvency law really well, and worked with quite a number of lawyers who are now mostly Court of Appeal or Supreme Court judges.”
She left to start her own practice - “one of my partners had decided to defraud the partnership” - but hankered to learn more about the law.
Next thing she was admitted into the second year of law school in Auckland, while still doing accountancy, raising three children and being pregnant with her fourth child.
Soon after gaining her Master of Laws with first class honours, she moved with her current husband Mark to Queenstown - they’d married at Arrowtown’s St Paul’s Church in 1999.
In Queenstown she initially practised as a barrister, while also working on cases in Auckland.
About 10 years ago, she was approached by the local council to be a planning commissioner - and a year later started chairing hearings.
“The last time I added up, I’ve sat on about 100 hearings panels.”
Meanwhile, she’s continued her other career as a professional director, having started out more than 20 years ago as a director of the Forestry Corporation of New Zealand.
Now she sits on five boards including Landcare Research, Radio New Zealand and Silver Fern Farms.
Landcare Research, the first board she’s chaired, is one of the country’s lesser known public bodies, she admits.
“It does a lot of critical research around biodiversity, bioheritage, climate change and pest and weed control.”
Latterly it’s run a crowdfunding appeal for its ‘war on rabbits’ - it’s researching a new strain of the calicivirus and trying to map rabbit infestations around the country.
Taylor admits she’s got a personal interest.
“You talk to any of the land owners [in the Wakatipu Basin], they’re just over-run - I mean, our place has been over-run.”
Asked if she brings a woman’s perspective to her boards, she replies: “I probably just bring my own perspective, but because you are a woman you probably do bring a woman’s perspective, if that makes sense.”
Despite a full professional career, Taylor says her family remains “a real priority” - her youngest is still at school.
“And even though the other three are off doing their own things, they still need a bit of support from time to time.”
She couldn’t be happier living in Queenstown - ”and getting out in the hills on a Saturday or Sunday morning for a couple of hours is great exercise”.
Asked if she’d consider standing for council this year, she says: “It’s something I would definitely think about down the track, but not right now.”
Given her experience and credentials, she’ll doubtless be asked again.