Alistair Polson dies aged 58

Agriculture envoy and former Federated Farmers president Alistair Polson has died.

“Alistair was a great farmer and a truly great New Zealander who has been taken from us way too soon,” says Bruce Wills, Federated Farmers President.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Bo and their family. 

“Bo and Alistair formed the most amazing and loving partnership and while Alistair was called overseas as Special Agricultural Trade Envoy, she kept the farm and family running.

“Where do you start with someone who gave so unstintingly of himself?  It is telling that despite Bo and Alistair’s home being inundated by the 2004 floods they put community before self.

“Alistair has been an office holder at most levels of Federated Farmers of New Zealand, serving as Wanganui provincial president and later National President between 1999 and 2002.

“Alistair has also served as a director of both the Waitotara Meat Company, PPCS (now Silver Fern Farms) and the Agriculture Industry Training Organisation. He has also served on the New Zealand Veterinary Council and the then National Animal Welfare Advisory Board.

“With a strong environmental ethos Alistair chaired the NZ Landcare Trust for seven years and in 2012, he became chairman of the New Zealand Farm Environment Awards Trust. 

“Chairing the New Zealand Farm Environment Awards Trust was something I know Alistair was deeply proud of.  It assured him the next generation of farmers cared for the land every bit as much as he did.

“Alistair himself won the Grasslands Memorial Trust Award for sustained improvement of pastures and sheep breeds in Wanganui hill country.  He was a past Nuffield Scholar and would later chair the New Zealand Nuffield Farming Scholarships Trust too.

“In 2004 he was appointed New Zealand Special Agricultural Trade Envoy by the Hon Phil Goff and continued in that role to 2013 under the Hon Tim Groser.

“In Argentina, for the World Farmers Organisation earlier this year, South American delegates mentioned Alistair’s name with reverence.  He was a noble man of true mana who gave his all for New Zealand.

“Alistair was a giant and his loss touches us all greatly,” Mr Wills concluded.

The Farm Environment Trust also pays tribute:

The New Zealand Farm Environment Trust has lost a truly inspirational leader.

Alistair Polson died on Thursday, June 5, following a short illness.

The well-known Wanganui farmer was a highly respected member of the farming community. He had extensive experience in business management and farming politics, serving as national president of Federated Farmers from 1999 to 2002. In 2004 he was appointed Special Agricultural Trade Envoy for New Zealand, and in 2012 he was elected chairman of the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust (NZFE).

NZFE acting chairman Simon Saunders says Mr Polson will be greatly missed by the Trust and by the wider farming community and he extends his sincere sympathy to Bo Polson and their children, Nick, Guy and Sarah.

“They have shared Alistair with so many and the loss of such a wonderful husband and father will be devastating, their family plans and dreams for the future have been so sadly taken from them.”

“Alistair made a massive contribution to New Zealand agriculture and he was a passionate and inspirational advocate for New Zealand farming. The Trust and New Zealand agriculture in general have lost a valued leader and a great friend.”

Mr Polson took over the chairmanship of NZFE in October 2012.

Prior to joining the Trust he was a member of the judging panel for the National Winner award in the Ballance Farm Environment Awards. He was a key supporter of the concept that good environmental practice and profitable farming go hand in hand.

“Alistair jumped straight into the role of chairman and he led the organisation with considerable professionalism and a huge amount of enthusiasm,” Mr Saunders says.

“He quickly grasped what the Trust was all about and his proven leadership ability was a great asset for the Trust and the Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

Mr Saunders says Mr Polson had a huge amount of passion for agriculture and a warm and approachable personality.

“Alistair loved nothing more than to be able to discuss and promote all the great attributes of our agricultural industry”

Mr Polson’s achievements in agriculture were extensive. He was a former director or committee member of a number of rural-based organisations, including AgITO, the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee, Veterinary Council of New Zealand and NZ Landcare Trust.

An agricultural science graduate from Massey University and a Nuffield Scholar, he also held company directorships with two major meat companies.

Mr Polson farmed in the Mangamahu Valley, near Wanganui.

“The wheel has turned completely since the days when the hero in the valley was the farmer who chopped down as much bush and scrub as possible. Now the heroes are the farmers who are retiring native bush, fencing waterways and planting trees for shade, shelter and erosion control.” – Alistair Polson.

Farming and New Zealand are the richer from his contributions and the poorer for his too-early death.

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