About us
Groundwork Associates is a small consultancy with a big focus on sustainability, common sense and responsiveness.

Groundwork Associates’ founder Annie Perkins saw many community and farmer-led initiatives struggling with the collaborative processes needed to achieve effective change. She formed a team of people with the diverse set of skills needed, and in 2002 Groundwork Associates was born. Over the years, Groundwork has earned respect for its expertise, adaptability, and well-established relationships with scientists, farmers, industry groups, and government bodies.

Our Team

small but mighty

Annie Perkins
BSc (Dairy Science), MSc (Ecological Economics)
Managing Director, Consultant

Annie has worked in sustainable agriculture and natural resource management her entire career, and in New Zealand since 1995. She has been an extension researcher, sustainable agriculture education coordinator, soil conservator, and catchment planner. Annie has extensive experience as a professional facilitator and project manager. She completed a post-graduate diploma in Sustainable Practice and was accepted for accreditation as an Associate of The Natural Step NZ. She has sat on the Hamilton City Council Sustainability Panel, is a founding member of Sustainable Waikato, and a founding trustee of the Te Whangai Trust and the Seeley Gully restoration trust. She is a member of industry groups including APEN, NZIPIM, NZARM and NZFSS.

  • Facilitation and leading co-design 
  • Collaborative process innovation 
  • Strategy and organisational development 
  • Integration of cloud-based collaborative tools  
  • Effective community and stakeholder engagement 
  • Agri-environmental science extension design and delivery
  • Training and mentoring in ag extension, facilitation and participatory appraisal
  • Event and project management
Jackie Fitchman
BBus (Marketing), GradDipEd
Communications Consultant

Jackie has over 15 years’ experience in marketing communications, complemented by a background in education. She has worked with the New Zealand government at all levels and across a broad range of areas, including natural resource management, science, strategy, policy, sustainable agriculture, sustainable business, biodiversity, biosecurity and waste. She led communications for Healthy Rivers/Wai Ora, a major science-based project to collaboratively develop solutions for the Waikato River’s water quality. She enjoys making complex, technical information appealing to lay people, and involving the public in decision making.

  • Science and technical communication
  • Communications and engagement planning
  • Content and copywriting
  • Editing and proofreading
  • Media relations
  • Issues management
  • Event management
  • Publication production
Kevin Steel

Kevin has an extensive background in public policy and the process of government. His experience brings a comprehensive knowledge and understanding of the primary industry sectors production systems and institutional arrangements, water and soil conservation and integrated catchment management and the interaction between the intensification of primary production and water quality and the wider environment.

  • Policy development and implementation
  • Policy and programme evaluation
  • Grant based programme management
  • Statutory resource management processes
  • International market access and trade negotiations
  • International environmental negotiations
Michelle Rush
Cert Journalism, BSc, MAppSci Agriculture and Rural Development
Senior Consultant

Michelle is a facilitator, trainer, and consultant specialising in public participation and community engagement. She has a rich history of work in natural resource management and primary industries. Michelle has an academic and practical knowledge of change management processes, particularly in rural development and more than 20 years’ experience as a professional facilitator working with the private, public and voluntary sectors. Michelle has delivered training courses on how to work effectively with the community in conservation and environmental education throughout New Zealand. She delivers facilitation training in both Australia and New Zealand using the Technology of Participation.



Dr Helen Ritchie

Helen Ritchie is an experienced facilitator and researcher with a background in community and environmental projects. She has led several action research projects about engaging rural communities in environmental management and conservation.

She has been involved in the design and delivery of facilitation training for community members, local and central government staff, and the Enviroschools programme. Her own facilitation and research practice is focused on environment, agriculture and development issues. It includes helping groups and agencies with strategic planning, community involvement and adult learning.

Helen is an authorised trainer for the Technology of Participation Facilitative Leadership Program through the Institute of Cultural Affairs (Australia). ​

Our Associates

Groundwork has strong business systems and excellent working relationships with consultants who complement our core skill set.
This approach to consultancy allows us to quickly build specialist project teams and to deliver exceptional outcomes for our clients.
Here are some of the people we enjoy working with the most.


Nigel has worked with rural communities, agricultural industries, businesses and farming families for 25 years. He has a wide range of experience in business consulting, training, project management, governance, and facilitation. He has managed major projects on social research, decision making, and community planning. He has written publications on succession planning and business skills decision making. He is always innovative in his approach and provides leadership to community organisations and businesses.


Ian has worked with Annie since 1995 as a facilitator and extension strategist. Although he’s employed full-time, Groundwork still pulls him in as a strategic advisor, valued for his positive attitude and down to earth approach. We draw on his wealth of experience and strong industry knowledge to support us with extension strategy and facilitation planning, especially for programmes with gritty agricultural content.


Jo is an experienced facilitator in the agricultural sector with strong dairy extension skills. She has a strong understanding of science and as well farming knowledge. In addition to her exceptional facilitation skills, Groundwork values Jo for her positive energy and her ability to bridge between science and farming.

Robin and Annick

Robin and Annick do applied research for development and are skilled in facilitation of agriculture extension, leadership learning, and tacit knowledge dissemination through applied social research. They have a deep understanding of the factors underpinning agricultural production, based on how psychosocial factors influence the adoption of scientific findings and how these disciplines can best be combined to ensure optimal production outcomes in the field.


James first discovered a range of dialogue tools and processes while in Zimbabwe. This inspired him to learn more and go on to develop his facilitation skills. James brings a wealth of experience and knowledge in systems support, including extensive technical experience and ease with software especially web-based tools which are beginning to have a positive impact on the internal systems within Groundwork Associates. In his quiet time, he can be found working on Food Forest projects.


Finn first started with Groundwork in 2015, after completing a Bachelor of Computer Graphic Design at The University of Waikato. On completing his Masters in 2017, he joined Groundwork full-time as a Digital Media Designer. Finn now has a support role at Groundwork and can assist with video production and photography.