Lees is of Ngati Hikairo affiliation (Kawhia - West of Hamilton) and is the managing Director of Nelson Management Limited, the management company for Nelson Forests Limited. Nelson Forests Limited employs over 500 staff and contractors in the Nelson region and supplies international markets in the USA, China, India, Spain, Japan, Australia and other countries. Lees is a qualified forester, has a MBA from Massey University and has further business qualifications from the Insead Business School in France. He has Chaired the NZ Forest Industries Council and has been a Board member of a number of forest industry organisations. He is an independent director of the property committee of Wakatu Incorporation, President of the Nelson Chamber of Commerce, and a Trustee/Board member of a number of community organisations.