ACE New Zealand Conference and Awards 2022 wrap-up

Thanks to everyone who attended and made this year’s ACE New Zealand Conference and Awards 2022 in Rotorua on 1-2 September such a massive success!

We had over 210 delegates come together across the two days to explore our theme ‘Big thinking for better business,’ including the challenges and opportunities that professional services consultants face in these uncertain times.

We hope that everyone came away with not only inspiration, but practical business solutions to apply straight away.

After the cancellation of last year’s conference and two years of COVID-19 ups and downs, it was great to see our industry reconnecting and celebrating their people, clients, and projects at the Awards gala dinner. It was a fitting way to wrap-up the conference.

Our keynote and industry speakers were absolute stars, serving up thought provoking korero, and some laughs along the way, to develop on our theme and share their valuable insights and experiences along the way.


The power of storytelling was one of the underlying themes of our ACE New Zealand conference.

New Zealand Story CEO, David Downs, emphasised the importance of story in developing a brand, culture and strategic thinking that truly connects with clients, while helping to attract and retain talent in the face of an incredibly tight job market. Still think New Zealand is small? Meet David Downs and in five minutes flat he’ll show you just how big an influence our country is internationally – so think bigger, think louder!

Applying Mātauranga Māori to our thinking, design, and engineering practises through stories and the importance of cultural advisory were also explored over the course of the two days. It’s about drawing on old ways of knowing and embedding them in our new ways of doing to shape a sustainable and safer Aotearoa, by using our local history and storytelling to better understand our clients, our value and how we work.

Wellbeing, resilience, leadership

‘Resilience’ is a word we heard often. With the arrival of COVID-19 industries we were forced to adapt, and quickly. Turning on a dime, we moved to a working from home model. While this kept us safe, it also introduced a level of complication for leaders in terms of workplace well-being, while also ensuring that their teams remain well and high performing.

Dr Lucy Hone, co-director and founder of the New Zealand Institute of Well-Being & Resilience shared lessons learned from more than 10 years studying the dynamics of personal and institutional resilience and presented on the important topic of ‘leading through challenge and change in a new work era’ of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. She also reiterated the importance of leaders taking care of themselves to lead well.

Following Dr Lucy’s presentation, ACE New Zealand CE Helen Davidson and Francois Barton of the Business Leaders Health & Safety Forum outlined how they are working together to help our member businesses design mentally healthy workplaces, so together we can grow a professional services consulting sector where our people’s mental health flourishes.

Speaking of resilience in crisis, Rabia Siddique, a former British Army legal officer, held us spellbound as she shared her deeply traumatic life story, which ultimately saw her held hostage and tortured in Iraq. Her courage shone through in spades and illustrated what it is to be a true leader, to step-up in times of crisis and stand your ground to right a wrong.


On day two, we moved from our leadership and storytelling journey into developing a deeper understanding of value – both your own and what your clients value.

Aurecon’s Chief Experience Officer Maureen Thurston explained why it’s important to demystify what we mean by value and how we can use innovation and procurement to deliver better outcomes for everyone. Trainer and straight talker Shelly Davies then emphasised the importance of knowing the value of your worth when it comes to pricing and being unapologetic about it.

Over the course of the two days, we had 24 abstracts presented from industry speakers which covered themes to help you do ‘better business’ such as designing a first-class consulting experience to harnessing technology and innovation to work smarter and leading through disruption. We appreciate everyone who shared their knowledge, learnings and insights. 

There were also two lively panel discussions around 'understanding what clients value’ and ‘risky business’ which offered a chance for audiences to participate and ask pertinent questions.

The Hon, Nanaia Mahuta, was our closing keynote and attended via Zoom to speak to us about the Three Waters Reform developments and take questions from the audience.

In summary

So, what is at the heart of ’Big thinking for better business’? It is a willingness to be bold. It is a willingness to truly hear our teams, clients, and communities. It is about listening and telling our story, in ways that are authentic and unique to each of us and the communities around us. It is about developing an even deeper understanding of our value and applying that understanding every day.

For our industry - to paraphrase a Star Trek quote - in the years ahead big thinking will see us explore strange new worlds, seek out new ways of living, working, and playing – and to go boldly where no one has gone before.

If you weren’t at this year’s conference, planning is already underway for next year’s, and we look forward to welcoming you all then!