Leadership Award

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Waipara resident Ben Kepes is one of six New Zealanders to be awarded a Blake Leader Award.
The Deputy Chief Fire Officer for the Waipara Volunteer Fire Brigade was recognised at the Sir Peter Blake Leadership Awards recently for his exceptional leadership in business, technology and his community, both North Canterbury and Christchurch.
Ben is the son of Hungarian immigrants who came to New Zealand in 1956 after fleeing the Hungarian revolution and the aftermath of the Holocaust. He has a sense of debt for the sacrifices they made so he and his siblings could have an ‘‘incredible life’’ in New Zealand.
He believes creating a legacy is the most important thing anyone can do and so is driven to make an impact on the world, either directly or by helping others realise their own natural potential.
In technology, Ben is the go-to-person for Cloud Computing, being one of the country’s most active mentors and a globally respected commentator in the technology space.
In 1995, Ben became involved with Cactus Equipment, a Christchurch company producing backpacks and outdoor clothing. Twenty one years later, he is still a director of the company and a tireless advocate for keeping manufacturing in New Zealand.
Building businesses, supporting others to create their own and investing in Kiwi entrepreneurs he believes in, is Ben’s motivation to build great New Zealand companies and to employ Kiwis. This can-do attitude has led him to be much admired as both a thought leader and a people leader.
When Christchurch was devastated by the earthquakes, Ben was an integral member of the immediate and intermediate response and has taken a key leadership role with investors to create a start-up ecosystem in Christchurch, drawing significant investment into new and existing companies.
His love, experience and in-depth knowledge of technology means Ben is a sought after international expert in information technology and new approaches to business. Considered to be one of the world’s most influential technology thinkers, he is in demand as a speaker around the globe.
Balancing his life involves a passion for the outdoors, which sees him competing in ultra-distance running and helping to raise his two sons.
In addition to being part of the Waipara Fire Brigade, Ben is involved with the Hurunui District Council which keeps him active on a local level.
CEO of the Sir Peter Blake Trust, Shelley Campbell, says Ben had shown a true commitment to business, not just his own, but nurturing and developing others.
‘‘He plays multiple roles, depending on the need and he’s hugely involved with his community and with young people.’’
‘‘Sir Peter Blake left a legacy of making us believe that we could achieve the impossible. All the people recognised in the Blake Leader Awards have shown a commitment to leading a team, have dreamt big and have shown a real commitment to New Zealand. Ben is a very deserving 2016 leader.’’
Ben says being a leader is all about taking people on a journey.
‘‘Above all, a leader’s job is to walk alongside their team and share a journey with them.’’