Cawthron Institute Announces New Board of Directors Chair

23 February 2024

Lees Seymour (Ngāti Hikairo affiliation) has been announced as the next Chair of the Cawthron Institute Board of Directors. He will replace Meg Matthews (Ngai Tahu), who is stepping down at the conclusion of her third three-year term on the Board and as Chair since 2018.

Lees is no stranger to Cawthron, having previously been a Director from July 2016 to July 2019. He rejoined the Board of Directors in May 2022.

Cawthron Institute Trust Board Chair John Palmer says Seymour’s appointment as Board Chair will ensure the long-term sustainability and success of Cawthron.

“The experience Lees has gained from his executive career, governance roles and passion for contributing to sustainability in New Zealand’s natural resources aligns perfectly with Cawthron’s values,” said Palmer.

“One of Cawthron’s core areas of focus is to realise the ambitions of others through our research. In practice, this means building authentic partnerships with Māori to co-develop solutions that draw on both science and mātauranga Māori to achieve equitable and just outcomes. Lees’ knowledge of tikanga Māori, commercial skills and governance experience will help to ensure our research informs decision making and delivers tools that empower people to create change,” said Palmer.

Seymour has a strong commercial background, having spent the last 20 years in senior roles leading significant forestry organisations. Since 2020, he has focused on his consultancy business and continues to consult to Government and a range of local and globally based forest and wood product organisations. Seymour is a qualified forester with an MBA from Massey University and holds further business qualifications from the Insead Business School in France. He has extensive board experience including chairing the New Zealand Forest Industries Council, and as a board member of a number of forest industry organisations and director at Wakatū Incorporation.

“I’m taking on the role of Chair at an exciting time for Cawthron. We are focused on implementing our Science Plan which will help to address some of the most pressing issues of our time, such as climate change, biodiversity loss and food security. Whilst there are some challenges to navigate in terms of the future of the national science funding system, I am confident that Cawthron’s impactful science and our collaborative approach will continue to make a difference,” said Seymour.

“I’d like to acknowledge Meg’s leadership as Chair, and that she steps away from Cawthron knowing the Institute has an exciting future ahead.”

During Meg Matthews’ tenure, Cawthron’s reputation of trust, expertise and collaboration to deliver world-class science has gone from strength to strength, and there has been considerable growth in its world-class infrastructure. This includes the Finfish Research Centre and the Cawthron National Algae Research Centre at the Cawthron Aquaculture Park, the Te Wero Aro-Anamata aquatic biocontainment facility, and most recently, the newly established Auckland Laboratory which expands the commercial service capacity of Cawthron Laboratories.

“It has been a privilege to serve on Cawthron’s Board for the past nine years. I am delighted that Lees will be my successor, and I look forward to seeing him help Cawthron continue to grow into the future,” said Matthews.

Palmer said that Matthews has provided vision and been a champion for Cawthron. “I wish to thank Meg for her leadership, mahi and commitment over the past nine years. Meg’s extensive governance experience has enabled her to provide invaluable guidance to the Board in her capacity as Chair. She has encouraged us to tell the Cawthron story and the difference our science makes to the economy, our community and the environment, the impact of which is felt in Te Tauihu, New Zealand and the world”.

Seymour will commence as Chair when Matthews steps down at the end of March.



Lees Seymour
Current Director and incoming Chair Lees Seymour
Meg Matthews
Current Board of Directors Chair Meg Matthews
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