Celebrating International Women’s Day with the first Keystone Trust student and first story of our “30 stories for 30 years” series.

March 7, 2024

Things moved fast for Andrea Salter after she’d given her speech at the annual Keystone awards dinner.

“I would not have imagined where I’d be now.”

It was November 1999. Andrea had just completed five years at Auckland University and was to graduate in 2000 with a Bachelor of Architecture.

Before the night was over, she’d been offered two jobs. Accepting one as a site engineer in Auckland with an international company, Bovis Lend Lease, was the first significant step in a career trajectory that eventually landed her in London. It’s from here, her home of the last 20 years,  that she is speaking today. Andrea is now director of development and project management at Apo Group Ltd – an established build-to-rent platform and consultancy  that works with developer and investor partners to create and operate homes at scale across the UK. Apo is part-owned by the Willmott Dixon Group, who Andrea’s been continuously employed with since she first got off the plane from Auckland.

 Andrea was one of the two inaugural recipients of a Keystone Study Award – then known as the Graeme Bringans Property Education Trust. Born and raised in Tikipunga, near Whangarei, she had excelled at the local high school – both scholastically and in sports. But university studies would have been a stretch. The Keystone grant was an “amazing assist” she says.

“My family would have struggled to support me and I would have struck up a massive, massive student loan.” Indeed: her fees doubled during her five years at Auckland University, but “thanks to the generosity of the trust”, she says she left with two degrees and a relatively small loan. 

During her first semester in 1998, Andrea had to complete a workshop project, which involved designing and making a piece of furniture. She chose to make a headboard for her bed and was quite impressed at how it turned out. Clearly, she made a quality product: the headboard now belongs to her nephew.

Even adversity has reaped positive results. Two years into her first job, Andrea was made redundant after her company closed its NZ operation. She used the payout to buy a one-way ticket to London, where she landed the job with Willmott Dixon. Her career focus has since shifted from architecture, to quantity surveying,  to development and project management. This sees her involved in everything from land purchases, planning applications, design, construction and financial management of projects, to designing amenity areas through to choosing the furniture for the apartments being built. (No mention of any more Salter headboards, though).

She genuinely sounds like she really loves what she’s doing, and indeed she agrees. Andrea also has time for hiking, which has taken her to numerous international spots including Kilimanjaro, Everest Base Camp and Bhutan. The next stop, she hopes, will be the 3000-kilometre Te Araroa trail from Cape Reinga to Bluff.

All this from small rural beginnings. “I would not have imagined where I’d be now,” says Andrea, who marvels at the continuing growth and influence of Keystone. To new aspirants she has some clear advice. It’s the same that she would have offered to her younger self: “Be brave; the world is your oyster. Take your chances and focus on what’s important to you.”

“Be brave; the world is your oyster. Take your chances and focus on what’s important to you.”

For further media enquiries, please contact:

Amanda Stanes
Keystone Trust – General Manager                                        
M: 021 689 380
E: amanda@keystonetrust.org.nz 

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