Grant attracts strong interest from aspiring leaders

High achiever . . . The Bruce Stewart Leadership Programme helped Emily Unahi to the summit of Te Manga, Rarotonga. PHOTO: NICK BROOK
Leading lights . . . Bruce Stewart receives his ONZM, for services to the community and the construction
industry, from Governor General Her Excellency The Rt Hon Dame Patsy Reddy in 2017. PHOTO: CLUTHA

When Annabelle Philips left Milton for university in Dunedin she felt a little lost.

‘‘There was an initial shock of no longer being in a tight-knit community. I felt disconnected from something I loved and didn’t quite know how to develop a new, supportive community around me.’’

When Annabelle was nominated for the Aspiring Young Leadership Forum in Wellington she wanted to jump at the opportunity to get involved with people from all over New Zealand with similar interests.

But as a student on a limited allowance, Annabelle needed some financial assistance and the Bruce Stewart Leadership Programme came through.

Over the last two years, the Bruce Stewart Leadership Programme has supported emerging leaders connected to the Tokomairiro region.

The grant is a legacy of Bruce Stewart, ONZM, cofounder of nationwide property and construction company Calder Stewart and lifetime resident of Milton. The Stewart family established the programme on Bruce’s wishes to promote leadership and development for people connected to Tokomairiro.

Attending a leadership course grounded in empathy, understanding, and open-minded thoughtfulness helped Annabelle realise the importance of community in encouraging and supporting her progress at university.

‘‘Without the Bruce Stewart funding, I wouldn’t have been able to experience or understand that. I am deeply grateful to be from a community so full of support.’’

The programme also supported Balclutha’s Emily Unahi. A recent high school graduate and natural leader, Emily wanted to expand her skills with the Future Leaders Academy. The Pacific Student Leaders Programme was a perfect opportunity for her to join other young leaders on a week-long, advanced leadership course hosted at locations across the Pacific.

‘‘It was an amazing opportunity that challenged me, but also taught me to put myself out there and challenge myself. The training gave additional tools to strengthen my leadership skill set while learning about Pasifika culture and building relationships.

‘‘We attended church, built a raft, learned ways businesses are run, and climbed the highest mountain in the Cook Islands. As well as helping improve my leadership skills, it showed different ways people live and the opportunities we have in New Zealand.’’

Bruce Stewart’s granddaughter Lauren Thornhill manages the programme and loves seeing the range of applicants.

‘‘It is a privilege to give back and support the next generation of leaders from our region,’’ she said.

In 1955 Bruce Stewart and Lance Calder built a house near Milton with little idea that 65 years on, Calder-Stewart would employ a team of over 400.

Bruce Stewart spent most of his life living and working in Tokomairiro, supporting and contributing to many community initiatives.

Reflecting on an impressive legacy built on family values and a humble leadership style, he noted his good start in life had the support to pursue his dreams, and at the time of his passing, Bruce still lived near the first home he built inMilton sixty-odd years ago.

The Bruce Stewart Leadership Programme launched on February 16 2021, and applications for funding are open now via