31 October 2012
Well-known Wanganui farmer Alistair Polson has been elected chairperson of the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust.
He takes over from North Waikato farmer Jim Cotman who has stepped down after six years in the role.
Mr Polson’s extensive experience in farming politics and business management includes serving as national president of Federated Farmers from 1999 to 2002.
Since 2004 he has been Special Agricultural Trade Envoy for New Zealand. He is 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 has also held company directorships with two major meat companies.
Mr Polson and his wife Bo farm in the Mangamahu Valley, near Wanganui. Their 500ha home block finishes lambs and beef cattle and grows 4.5ha of kiwifruit. The Polsons also own a 1400ha sheep and beef farm at the top end of the Mangamahu Valley.
Over the last two years Mr Polson has been on the judging panel for the National Winner award in the Ballance Farm Environment Awards. The awards are administered by the New Zealand Farm Environment (NZFE) Trust.
“That’s given me a good opportunity to understand what the Trust does,” he says.
“I’m impressed by what I’ve seen. The programmes and initiatives developed by the Trust have encouraged a whole new culture of sustainable land management.”
Mr Polson is a key supporter of the concept that good environmental practice and profitable farming go hand in hand.
“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.”
He says the NZFE Trust has played a major role in ensuring farmers are encouraged and rewarded for using good environmental practices.
“We live in a community, so we’ve got to get it right for the people we share that community with, the markets we deal with and for ourselves. If we don’t farm sustainably, we don’t have a business.”
His new role as chair of the NZFE Trust is a challenge he is looking forward to. He says his predecessor Jim Cotman has left big shoes to fill – figuratively speaking.
“Jim has done great work during his time with the Trust and my first job as chair will be to make sure the momentum started by Jim and the other trustees continues.”
Mr Polson was appointed chair of NZFE Trust following the Trust’s annual meeting on October 23. Mr Cotman will stay on as an advisory trustee in the interim.
Three new trustees have also been elected. They are Andrea Hanna, Te Kuiti, Hew Dalrymple, Bulls, and James Hunter, Waipukurau. Andrea Hanna and her husband Brian were supreme winners of the Waikato Ballance Farm Environment Awards in 1999, and Hew Dalrymple and his brother Roger were supreme winners for the Horizons region in 2007. James Hunter won the supreme award for the East Coast region in 2012.
The NZFE Trust board of trustees comprises:
Alistair Polson, Chairman, Wanganui
Simon Saunders, Deputy Chair, Lumsden
Joanne van Polanen, Treasurer, Ashburton
Martin Wallace, Morrinsville, Trust Secretary
John Bourke, Katikati
David Cameron, Masterton
Hew Dalrymple, Bulls
Andrea Hanna, Te Kuiti
Bruce Fraser, Tauranga
James Hunter, Waipukurau
Larry Bilodeau, Tauranga
The Trust’s General Manager is David Natzke.
For more information on the Ballance Farm Environment Awards, contact David Natzke, General Manager, New Zealand Farm Environment Trust, phone 07 834 0400, firstname.lastname@example.org.