Monday, April 22, 2024

Moffat leaves behind an evolving industry

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DINZ CEO ‘desperately proud of NZ’s ability to produce the highest quality, safe food’.
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Departing Deer Industry New Zealand chief executive Innes Moffat has given 18 years of unwavering support and service to an industry he stumbled upon rather than aspired to.

But he has no regrets as leaves the helm.

“I have spent a fair part of my life working with the red meat industry and reached a stage in life where I’m thinking ‘What’s next?’” Moffat says.

While he has “other things” he is interested in, just what those things will be are yet to evolve.

“I am too young and too poor to retire so there will be something next.

“I am desperately proud of NZ’s ability to produce the highest quality, safe food. We don’t celebrate that enough.”

Maybe there’s a hint there of his future.

Moffat ended his tenure at DINZ on March 1, leaving behind a legacy of transformation and industry growth.

In his four years as chief executive, DINZ underwent significant transformation. 

The culmination of this evolution occurred last year when DINZ successfully refined its industry-led priorities and streamlined its processes while at the same time there was a recalibration of the organisation’s team. 

With the completion of DINZ’s transformation, Moffat says leading the team has been a “privilege and pleasure” and though it has been a tough call, it is timely now to step down.

“The industry has been through tough times, much of which was externally imposed by the pandemic and international trading conditions, which required serious recalibration for the organisation.

“Venison after covid is out the other side, we are on the right track now. The industry has a clear role and clear strategy, it is the appropriate time for the industry to take up fresh leadership into the next phase.”

Moffat was appointed chief executive in 2019 after working as manager of the industry’s productivity improvement programme for six years. Before that he was venison marketing manager for eight years.

His involvement in the meat industry started in 1996 with the NZ Meat Producers Board as a development officer for the Asian market.

This was not what he aspired to be as a youngster growing up on the family farm in Otago.

“I grew up on a sheep and beef farm near Balclutha. I thought I would be a farmer, I guess because it was all I knew, but with my parents’ encouragement I went to university and I have a degree in history and political studies.

“Coming through the reforms of the ’80s as a teenager, farming was tough, it really wasn’t an attractive place to be. My parents’ encouragement at the time was probably good as I learnt to have an open mind.”

After graduating from university Moffat headed abroad and worked in the United Kingdom for three years across a variety of jobs, from working on farms to truck driving and serving in bars.

Returning to NZ and expecting to get a job with his university degree didn’t  quite go as planned.

“I worked under contracts with some government departments until I eventually landed a role with the NZ Meat Board. They sent me to Brussels to represent the NZ meat industry for market access and quotas with the European Union Commission.”

On his return to NZ four years later he was looking for something different and that’s when he teamed up with DINZ.

“Part of the appeal was the small organisation representing farmers, processors and exporters with involvement across the entire value chain from genetics, grassroots farming, policy, to talking with international markets involving the plate back to the genetics and everything in between.  

“Our industry certainly has changed and it will continue to change. There were a lot more farmers with deer 15 years ago. 

Moffat has every confidence that the NZ deer industry will continue to adapt, thrive and produce high quality products for international markets, providing a valuable contribution to NZ’s economy.

A particular highlight of his time with DINZ has been the passionate farmers.

“Deer farmers take a deep interest in the work we do, they feed their passion into the industry and are happy to share what we do well and what we could do better.

“Farmers took ownership of the Passion2Profit programme and it was very gratifying, the really deep level of engagement being real testament to the quality and design of the programme and enthusiasm of the farmers who took ownership of it.”   

Moffat also paid tribute “to the dedicated DINZ team and contractors, to industry leaders, government officials and politicians” he has worked alongside over the years.

“The industry is different to five years ago; it is different to 15 years ago and it will be different in five years’ time as well.

“There is constant evolution in NZ marketing companies, strengthening brands to meet changing consumer preferences.

“The industry is well placed to capitalise on naturally produced product and I see NZ venison companies differentiating themselves in the future as they grow niche markets, such as grass-fed and non-carbon venison, more carefully placing these with those customers who value it most highly.

“It has been a reasonably tumultuous period in NZ farming and the international trade sector. I hope I leave the team in a good place, well positioned to serve a dynamic and exciting sector.”

Moffat has no specific plan for his future but “there will be something and no, it won’t be taking up golf”.

DINZ board chair Mandy Bell will take up the interim role as executive chair “to keep up the momentum and support the DINZ executive team” while the search for new leadership is underway.

She acknowledges Moffat’s extensive contribution to the deer industry and says despite the transition, DINZ remains steadfast in its commitment to leading industry change and securing better access for deer products in international markets. 

“DINZ remains focused on leading industry change and securing better access for deer products in international markets. 

“We appreciate everything Innes has done, leading our sector through a time of real change. 

“His unwavering support and service to DINZ have had a significant impact on many,” Bell says.

Finding the right person to step into Moffat’s seat is expected to take a couple of months.

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