Wednesday, April 24, 2024

DINZ appoints new general manager

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Leading farm animal welfare specialist Rob Gregory has been appointed as general manager quality assurance of Deer Industry New Zealand (DINZ). In a changing of the guard, Gregory takes up the role of John Tacon who is retiring at the end of this month after more than 30 years in the deer industry.
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Gregory has extensive international experience in animal welfare and quality systems.

His most recent position was with the RNZSPCA, where he assisted with the launch of SPCA Certified, the RNZSPCA’s flagship welfare assurance programme.

From 2012 to 2019, Gregory was based in Thailand working first as Asia-Pacific programme director for World Animal Protection (WAP), an animal welfare NGO, and then as an international animal welfare consultant.

While working for WAP, he led the development of the first National Code of Practice for Dairy Welfare in India and facilitated the creation of the first pre-stun slaughter facility for local cattle in Indonesia.

Previously Gregory worked for MPI and DairyNZ and from 2003-2006, worked for DINZ on deer welfare matters.

DINZ chief executive Innes Moffat says Gregory’s appointment reinforces the industry’s commitment to farm animal welfare as quality assurance, including high standards of animal welfare, are becoming ever more important to consumers of premium animal products.

“The deer industry has a long history of investing in leading QA programmes, including NZ’s first on-farm and transport quality assurance programmes,” Moffat said.

“Under JT’s (Tacon) leadership, farmers and transport operators have at times made hard-calls to ensure the welfare of the deer in their care.”

We have much to be proud of, Moffat says – but nothing stands still.

“Meeting the expectations of consumers, as well as the requirements of regulatory authorities in NZ and in overseas markets, is an ongoing challenge for which Rob (Gregory) is very well qualified,” he said.

Gregory started with DINZ on July 1 and Tacon retires on July 31, giving a one-month handover period.

Tacon, who was awarded the prestigious Deer Industry Award in May, has overseen the establishment of rigorous animal welfare standards across the deer industry – on-farm, velvet removal, deer transport and deer processing.

Accolades and endorsements supporting his nomination were fulsome from right across the industry.

From the early 1980s, Tacon owned and operated a deer transport business based out of Hokitika, specialising in the transport of feral deer during the expansion phase of the industry.

In those days, deer were worth $1200–$3000 a head, with individual stags considerably more. 

His reputation, quiet and calm approach, innate knowledge of deer behaviour, commitment to service and his unruffled approach to stock found him well respected.

He was considered among the best of operators in this emerging specialist transport business.

His leadership for 30 years in this area is said to be the stuff of legends.

DINZ producer manager Tony Pearse says Tacon’s style is unassuming, but firm and clear.

“John (Tacon) is one of the fathers of quality assurance programmes in NZ agriculture, and while the wheel takes time to turn again, the widespread adoption of on-farm quality assurance is based on the pioneering work led by him in conjunction with the NZ Deer Farmers’ Association and processing companies,” Pearse said. 

Tacon was the DINZ lead on the implementation of the velvet removal Regulated Control Scheme and more recently assumed a bigger role in the implementation of VelTrak. 

“Both are substantial changes to the way we do business and due to John’s consultative and practical approach are seen as positive changes for the deer industry,” Moffat said.

“In the complex arena of animal welfare and transport especially, Tacon is a legend and a very worthy nominee for deer industry recognition,” former MPI animal welfare team manager and principal adviser Mark Fisher said.

“His proactive, inclusive and practical approach to animal welfare should be an example to all other farming industries.”

Tacon says he is proud and honoured.

“I’ve got the best job in the world, working with deer and livestock transport,” Tacon said.

“I’ve been so proud to work in the deer industry and alongside such a fantastic, qualified and amazing group of people.”

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