Farm Environment Trust’s Annual Meeting Marks the Highs and Low of 2014


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Photo Left to right: David Cameron, Hew Dalrymple, Andrea Hanna, Joanne van Polanen, Simon Saunders (Chairman), Jim Hitchcock. Absent is Graeme Smith.

The New Zealand Farm Environment (NZFE) Trust has celebrated another successful year for the Trust and its flagship enterprise, the Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

But it was also a year of great sadness, with the death of chairman Alistair Polson rocking the Trust and the wider farming community.

At the Trust’s 2014 Annual Meeting in late October, NZFE’s newly-appointed chair Simon Saunders paid tribute to Mr Polson, who died in June.

“Alistair was admired and respected for the years of work he had committed to many organisations and causes within the agricultural sector. He was highly motivated to make a difference, working tirelessly on behalf of farmers to promote our industry.”

Though Mr Polson had only been in the chair’s role for a short time, Mr Saunders said much had been achieved under his leadership and “a number of exciting opportunities are in the pipeline”.

Highlights for 2014 are outlined in NZFE’s annual report, which is available on the Trust’s website

They include the successful staging of the first Taranaki Ballance Farm Environment Awards, bringing the number of regions involved in the competition to ten.

The Trust’s annual National Sustainability Showcase, held in Christchurch, was another roaring success, capped by the crowning of Canterbury dairy farmers Mark and Devon Slee as the 2014 winners of the Gordon Stephenson trophy.

Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA) Supreme-winner field days around the country drew huge attendances, reflecting ever-increasing farmer interest in sustainability.

In conjunction with Beef+ Lamb New Zealand, NZFE Trust also hosted the second Environment Leaders Programme for sheep and beef farmers who were award winners in the 2013 BFEA. Held in Wellington, the programme featured some inspiring speakers and plenty of robust discussion and debate with a range of leaders from both the agricultural and political spectrum. Planning for next year’s programme is already underway. 

While the Trust has achieved much on the operational front, Mr Saunders said there is no room for complacency “as many challenges lie ahead”.

“The role of the Trust and the Awards is becoming even more important as the increasing scrutiny on our farming systems continues, especially in the area of nutrient loss and water quality.”

Following a review of its governance model, Mr Saunders said the Trust had implemented a number of key recommendations “to better reflect the governance needs of the organisation today and in the future”. These include updating the Trust Deed, streamlining the trustee election process and reducing the board size from 11 to 8.

Along with Mr Saunders, who farms near Lumsden, the NZFE 2015 board includes Joanne van Polanen, deputy chair and treasurer, Ashburton, and Andrea Hanna, secretary, Te Kuiti. Other trustees are Hew Dalrymple, Bulls, David Cameron, Masterton, Jim Hitchcock, Rotorua, and Graeme Smith, Mount Maunganui. One more trustee is to be appointed.

Long-term trustees Martin Wallace, Bruce Fraser and John Bourke announced their retirement at the Annual Meeting. Mr Saunders said these trustees epitomise what is special about the organisation.

“Their vast knowledge and wisdom will be sorely missed around the board table. But they can retire with a great deal of satisfaction knowing that their hard work has laid the foundations for the continued success of the Trust.”

Mr Saunders acknowledged the dedication of the Trust’s management staff and its army of volunteers throughout the country “who are the engine room of this organisation”.

He also thanked the Trust’s strategic partners and sponsors.

“We are very lucky to have an outstanding family of partners and sponsors that share a genuine belief in what the Trust and the Ballance Farm Environment Awards are trying to achieve.”

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