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HRNZ Board

Board Profiles

Helen van Orton

Board Chair / Independent Director

Based in Auckland, Helen was appointed as a Director in August 2020 and elected Chair in December 2021.

Helen has 15+ years executive leadership experience in digitisation, customer experience, marketing, complex operations and sales leadership gained while working for brands such Air New Zealand, Lotto, Vodafone, Westpac, BNZ and Lloyds Bank.

Helen is also a director of the Co-operative Bank, Centrix Group Ltd, Co-operative Life Ltd and Zeal and was a former Director of The Warehouse Financial Services Ltd.

Kavita Khanna, CFHRNZ

National President

Kavita Khanna has over two decades experience in leadership roles, having worked in professional services, construction and technology sectors in New Zealand and in India. In her current role as Executive Leader, People + Workplace in Tonkin & Taylor, she is responsible for shaping the people strategy, looking after a range of functions including People Technology, HR and HSW and leading complex, transformational projects for the business. She has a broad skill set and expertise covering governance, leadership, strategic planning, managing a consulting business and people and culture. She managed her own consulting business and has been a board intern on the Regional Facilities Auckland Board. She is a Chartered Fellow of HRNZ.

Elena Calvert, CMHRNZ

National Vice President

Elena brings a valuable mix of experiences across public, private and not for profit sectors, combining HR consulting, generalist and specialist HR functions. Currently she is the Recruitment Manager at the University of Otago, after time with Deloitte NZ and Mitre 10 MEGA Dunedin.

Elena is a long-term member of the HRNZ Otago Branch committee and is passionate about delivering value to HRNZ members no matter what part of the country they are based in. She has also been a strong advocate of continually investing into our engagement with students.

Karli Te Aotonga, CMHRNZ


Karli has iwi affiliations to Ngāti Awa, Te Arawa, Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Tūwharetoa ki Kawerau, Ngāi Tūhoe, Ngāti Ruanui, Ngā Rauru and Ngāti Koata. Karli is a Chartered Member of HRNZ (CMHRNZ), holds a bachelor in HRM, a master of Māori and Indigenous leadership and is working on PhD research focused on tikanga Māori and employment relations. Karli is committed to the kaupapa of transformational change and culture within all workplaces of Aotearoa that is focused on taking practical action to give effect to Te Tiriti o Waitangi. She is māmā to three boys, Cobey, Wiremu Te Awarua and Tūterangi-Te Ramaapakura, her life’s inspiration.

Rowan Tonkin, CFHRNZ


In an HR career spanning nearly 30 years across New Zealand and Australia, Rowan is an experienced CHRO, HR Executive and CIO having had strategic and executive leadership responsibilities across many businesses and global organisations. His recent experience includes leadership positions within ANZ Bank, Turner & Growers, Telecom/Spark and Vodafone and is currently Senior Director HR Transformation APAC at Oracle based in Auckland.

He is a Chartered Fellow of HRNZ a Fellow Certified Practitioner of the Australian HR Institute, previously awarded HRINZ Generalist and HRINZ Person of the Year. He is a member of the Member of the NZ Institute of Directors and holds a Masters in Management Studies, a Masters of Supply Chan Management, a Bachelors of Social Studies (Psychology/Management) and Post-Graduate Certificate in Business Governance.

Rowan is passionate about how organisations transform and digitally enable their people to use technology to enable modern workplaces and redefine the role, strategic contribution and service experience of HR teams.

Danni Williams, CMHRNZ


Danni is an experienced HR professional, with deep expertise across employment relations, large scale change and organisational design. Danni recently held the position of Director, Management Consulting for international firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). As a national lead in PwC's People & Organisation practice, she worked alongside business and HR leaders across New Zealand on workforce, organisation and HR transformation and strategy initiatives. Danni is an active voice for business and HR alignment and adaptation for the future of work. She also has a deep interest in national employment relations system history, change and outcomes.  

Danni is a Chartered Member of HRNZ (CMHRNZ), and was HRNZ HR Professional of the Year in 2022. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in HR Management (HRM) and Management, and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Business Administration, majoring in HRM. 

Danni is currently traveling around Aotearoa and abroad with her husband, making the most of life following a busy past few years. Alongside her Board commitments, she continues mentoring HR professionals alongside flexible HR mahi in the SME space. 

Melissa Crawford, CMHRNZ

Independent Director

Melissa Crawford is a highly regarded expert in the future of work, with a rare blend of skills that span both people and technology. With 20 years’ experience in senior HR strategy roles across some of New Zealand's largest organizations, Melissa brings a wealth of experience from diverse industries including tech, airline, banking, FMCG, retail, education, and energy.

With an extensive HR career and two technology degrees Melissa brings a unique perspective to the impact of technology on the future of work. Melissa's contributions to the field have earned her several accolades, including as a previous HRNZ Leadership Award and HR Person of the Year Award winner in 2022. Melissa is a Chartered Member of HRNZ and the NZ Institute of Directors.

Currently the Director of Tech with Heart, Melissa works with future focused organisations on strategic technology and people projects as well as being a sought-after conference speaker. Melissa is passionate about keeping the HR field future focused.

Emma Watson

Independent Director

Emma brings commercial, finance and strategy skills to the Board, gained from 20 years senior leadership experience in Corporates, SMEs and NFP's. She is currently a Business Consultant and Interim Executive helping organisations scale up operations or optimise commercial performance. She has previously held MD, COO, CFO and Strategy roles in global, Asia Pacific and local technology, professional services and publishing businesses. Emma is also a Board Member for the Marketing Association. 

Emma is passionate about helping organisations and their people maximise opportunities, achieve their potential and thrive. 

She is a Chartered Member of the Institute of Directors in New Zealand and a UK qualified Chartered Accountant.