Friday, December 8, 2023

Glass urges DairyNZ to be ‘a lot braver’ 

Neal Wallace
Retiring director says courage will be needed to tackle future dairy industry challenges.
DairyNZ farmer director Colin Glass says while farmers may not necessarily agree with what’s being done, they do need to agree with the direction of travel.
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DairyNZ as an organisation representing farmers needs to be a lot braver, outgoing director Colin Glass says.

It needs that courage when it looks out at the future at what it is willing to tackle and the changes the industry is prepared to make, he said at DairyNZ’s annual meeting in Te Awamutu.

“To be brave requires leadership from all of us. It’s leadership from our board, it’s leadership from our management team and it’s the willingness to embrace that leadership from our farmers as well. That requires trust and respect and that’s not given; that’s earned.”

It falls on DairyNZ to demonstrate that every day, he said.

DairyNZ also needs to embrace the industry’s strength. 

“Looking around at agri in NZ and in our provincial centres, those provincial centres are largely in decline if it wasn’t for dairy and dairy farming.

“Dairy farming is in an enviable position that other ag sectors simply marvel at. That’s for us to lose.”

Reflecting on his tenure, Glass looked back at some of the issues the board dealt with over the past six years.

His start and ending on DairyNZ’s board coincided with general elections, starting with the change in government in 2017, as well as changes within Fonterra.

Glass recalled meeting with government ministers after a board meeting in the capital.

“Just about without exception, every one of those meetings I felt like I was the little boy in short pants being lectured about being a dairy farmer.”

Glass said the absence of Fonterra and the wider dairy industry in Wellington during those early years was noticeable.

That has changed, with DairyNZ now having a much stronger presence in Wellington. The board and senior management team have far greater influence on government policies.

During the Mycoplasma bovis eradication programme, the response put in place marked the first time the industry had worked in collaboration with the government to achieve a goal, he said.

“What it has done is that it’s brought the industry significantly closer to [the Ministry for Primary Industries] and I want to acknowledge [MPI director-general] Ray Smith and the close working relationship that’s played out there.”

The Essential Freshwater reforms and the wave of roadshows around the country saw the MPI and Ministry for the Environment “get a dose of what it feels like when you don’t engage with farmers effectively and when you dump regulation on farmers with no warning or without any purpose at the end of the day”.

Halls around the country were filled with farmers pushing back on the proposed regulations – farmers who only wanted to do the right thing in the best interests of their industry and communities.

In recent years, the focus had changed to climate change and farmers’ response to He Eke Waka Noa.

“That hasn’t stopped, and it won’t stop and we continually need to be engaged to ensure that farmers are best placed to respond to whatever change is going to play out in the future.”

These were all issues that were dropped on DairyNZ without much warning and he acknowledged the staff who worked to front foot these issues, get feedback from farmers and feed that into consultation to make sure the industry was well placed, he said.

DairyNZ was also involved in a wide variety of other work that ensures the dairy industry is well placed in the future.

“It’s in that BAU [business as usual] stuff that DairyNZ is the silent, quiet achiever and I would challenge ourselves that we need to be stronger in how we sell ourselves and how we recognise the efforts that have gone in … and what will hold us well placed in the future.”

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