Alistair Polson dies aged 58

06/06/2014

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.


Rural round-up

03/08/2013

Report’s honesty on Chinese meat delays will rebuild trust:

“Refreshingly honest” is how Federated Farmers is describing the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) report into the delays, which affected New Zealand meat exports to China.

“Having read the MPI report and chronology involved, this is a refreshingly honest and critical self-examination of what went wrong in China,” says Bruce Wills, Federated Farmers President.

“As the report comes out of the MPI, its honesty will help to rebuild trust. The recommendations are sensible in a market where we have seen phenomenal growth since 2008 when the Free Trade Agreement was signed.

“This rapid growth is no excuse so the report highlights that resources need to match growth. As an exporting country we must listen to our customers and this report tells us that this did not happen. . .

New anti-rustling online map gets the farmer tick:

Federated Farmers is applauding Stop Stock Theft, New Zealand’s first ever online map designed to report and track suspected stock theft. This joint initiative between Crimestoppers NZ, NZX-Agri and the Police will be welcomed by all farmers.

“While shoplifting costs New Zealand some $730 million each year, stock theft is reportedly costing the country a further $120 million,” says Katie Milne, Federated Farmers rural security spokesperson.

“These are massive sums for red meat farmers who are struggling against a backdrop of the New Zealand dollar and difficult market conditions. . .

Dairy intensification not all bad – vet leader :

WIDESPREAD CONCERN about the welfare of fully housed cows in New Zealand is not well-founded, says the chair of the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee, Dr John Hellstrom. If such systems are good, animal health should improve, he says.

In a paper delivered at the recent NZVA annual conference in Palmerston North, Hellstrom argues that many large-herd cows kept outside all their lives suffer poor welfare at certain times of the year. 

For example, sacrifice paddocks don’t provide good animal welfare especially when calving cows are not drafted out onto dry calving places. Hellstrom notes the current DairyNZ advice on sacrifice paddocks makes no reference to animal welfare. . .

Primary jobs for Maori:

Some primary industries are hiring staff from overseas, whereas there are many young Maori ready to enter the workforce, says chairman of the Export Industry Skills Analysis Advisory Group, Peter Douglas.

They need to be found and assisted through their training, says Douglas.

The Export Industry Skills Analysis Advisory Group met for the first time recently as part of Maori Economic Development Action Plan. The plan was announced by Minister for Economic Development Stephen Joyce and Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples in November 2012. . . .

A very unpopular dairy blog post – Milk Maid Marian:

I suspect I am about to make a lot of enemies because there is an elephant in the room and few are in a position to point it out.

Here are the facts:

  • the last season has been dreadful
  • dairy farmers have free access to lots of information about we can keep cows healthy during fodder shortages
  • many dairy farmers who couldn’t afford skyrocketing feed costs have sold a lot of cows at ridiculously low prices so they can feed the remainder of their cows properly
  • farmers have gone broke but kept their cows healthy
  • cows do not starve overnight and watching them weaken over weeks or months would be more than I could bear yet reports of them dying in their hundreds have hit the national news

I was stunned. Perhaps people who would normally sell their cows off long, long before they reached the point of starvation couldn’t for some reason? Maybe they were hoping for a miracle? Maybe they were in denial? . .

Breakthrough on noxious alga :

New Zealand scientists have made a breakthrough in the battle against the noxious pest sometimes known as “rock snot”.

In a world first, researchers at the Cawthron Institute in Nelson have bred the invasive alga, Didymo, in the laboratory.

The scientist say it took four years of research and will allow them to more accurately identify which conditions promote and which deter blooms of Didymo. . .


Rural round-up

04/07/2012

Lifting Maori Business – Sheryl Brown:

Life works in mysterious ways according to Roku Mihinui, chair of Kapenga M Trust, the winner of the BNZ Maori Excellence in Farming Award for Dairy, 2012.

After accepting the Ahuwhenua Trophy on behalf of farm staff and the Trust’s 915 shareholders, Mihinui confessed the 998 cow dairy operation found themselves short of milk for cups of tea at their field day during the competition.

“My daughter was helping with the catering and she asked me where the milk was for cups of tea – we were right beside the milking shed and we had no bloody milk!” The dairy unit is hardly short of milk either – producing in excess of 370,000kg milksolids (MS) this season. Despite the milk mishap and a wet day to showcase the farm, the judges were impressed by the presentation of the property. The Trust beat other finalists Tauhara Moana Trust and Waewaetutuki 10, Wharepi Whanau Trust to take the coveted trophy. . .

Outram breeders win trophy for best carcus – Sally Rae:

Outram Limousin breeders Rob and Jean Johnstone have been awarded the Alan Dodd Trophy for the champion carcass in the annual Otago-Southland beef carcass competition.   

The competition, which attracted 32 entries, was held at the  Alliance Group’s Mataura plant with hoof judging by Mark Cuttance, from PGG Wrightson, and hook judging by Mervyn  Wilson, of the Alliance Group. . .

Animal Welfare Committee annual report:

The National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC) issued its 2011 Annual Report today.

The development and review of codes of welfare was the main focus of NAWAC’s work in 2011. The Transport within New Zealand Code was issued during the year and the Committee finished deliberations on a review of the Meat Chickens Code and a new Goats Code.

The Transport Code covers all animals transported by land, sea or air within New Zealand. It provides clarity about who is responsible for the welfare of animals at all stages of transportation and gives direction about how this must be achieved.

Committee chairman, John Hellström, said the Code has been rapidly adopted by industry since its launch in September.

“It is gratifying to see this code, like the earlier dairy, sheep and beef and pig codes being widely adopted within industry guidelines.” . . .

The report is here.

Blackenbrook First South Island Winery to be Vegetarian Approved:

 Family owned and operated Blackenbrook Vineyard in Tasman, near Nelson is proud to be the first Vegetarian wine producer in the South Island approved by the New Zealand Vegetarian Society.

Blackenbrook’s white and Rosé wines will carry the Vegetarian Society Approved Trademark (see attached photo) which is run under strict licensing criteria from the UK Vegetarian Society. 

The first wines to be labelled with the distinctive logo will be bottled in early August and include Blackenbrook Sauvignon Blanc 2012, Riesling 2012, Pinot Gris 2012 and Rosé 2012.  Next year Blackenbrook Gewürztraminer, Muscat and Chardonnay will be added to this list. . .

Owaka herd manager is Farming to Succeed:

Owaka herd manager, Shane Bichan, says his eyes have been opened to opportunities in the agriculture industry after attending AgITO’s South Island Farming to Succeed programme sponsored by FIL New Zealand.

“It was brilliant, it was an eye opener, I came home on such a buzz. I came away with a new mentor – course facilitator Grant Taylor is an amazing man.

“He talked about turning your blinkers off and seeing what else is out there – I would’ve been happy to listen to him each day even without the farms we visited. . .

Lucky Young Farmer member awarded trip of a lifetime:

AgriVenture New Zealand has teamed up with New Zealand Young Farmers this year to award an AgriVenture scholarship to one lucky NZYF member.

The scholarship is valued at $7000 and includes a fully paid six to twelve month AgriVenture programme to the recipient’s choice of destination country.

AgriVenture gives young people aged between 18 and 30 the opportunity to travel and work on a farm, in horticulture or home management in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, USA, Europe and Japan. . .


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