July 10, 2008

Local Man Elected to Industry Boards; Looking Forward to Getting Stuck In


IT'S been quite a month for Neil Walker. The Hawera man has just been elected president of both the Dairy Industry Association of New Zealand (Dianz) and the dairy division of the NZ Institute of Food Science and Technology.

At the organisation's conference in Rotorua a fortnight ago, Mr Walker was also made a fellow of the institute.

He was presented with a certificate to note his 35 years of service with Fonterra and its predecessor, 800 Government grants, 13 years on the dairy association council (1991-2004), and career highlights in research.

He is also a fellow of the New Zealand Institute of Chemistry.

And that's not all.

"I have just received my qualifications as a Hearings Commissioner," the 58-year-old says.

"The Government decided the standards of the hearings needed to be improved."

Mr Walker says those qualifications involved a two-day intense workshop in Wellington and a 50-sided assignment that included considerable research.

He asks his wife of 32 years, Helen, to find the certificate to get the correct title of his qualification.

"That's the wrong one, darling," he says when she produces his JP certificate.

He jokes he will be referred to as "Your Honour" when in court as a Hearings Commissioner, while he is referred to as "Your Worship" in his JP role.

"It is quite a hoot," he says.

Mr Walker obtained a bachelor of science from Victoria University in chemistry and a bachelor of business studies from Massey in financial management and industrial relations.

He joined the dairy company which later became Fonterra, where he spent 35 years.

His last role was as a service technologist for development funding which involved connecting between universities in Australia and New Zealand. Mr Walker won a New Zealand Dairy Industry achievement award in 1995 which resulted in a European tour. He retired from there in 2006.

"I retired on the first of April. I was the April Fool," he says.

"I had the opportunity to retire. I did. I also own a diary farm. I got the opportunity to do what I really wanted to do. I took the opportunity. I'm never sorry I did. Now it is my time, my interests," he says.

His involvement in organisations is huge.

He's heavily involved with the National Party, is a Taranaki Regional Councillor, is on the national board of the Presbyterian Church Council of Assembly, is chair of the Hawera Stage Group set up to provide an art gallery in Hawera, is co-chair of the Central NZCCS Society, is a community representative of the Hawera Hospital Committee and is chair of the Solid Waste Management working party of Taranaki.

He unsuccessfully stood for a place on the Fonterra board of directors at the last elections.

"I do have quite strong opinions. I still personally think Fonterra is a great company, but not quite performing at what it could be. I was opposed to the floating because someone else would get the profit." Mr Walker inherited his father's Manutahi farm when he died.

"We are the fifth generation. My great-great grandfather was in the Maori Wars in 1860. We've still got the medals and guns. I was born in Kaponga," he says.

He says the same sharemilkers have been there for 24 years.

"I don't allow them to leave. I have them chained up at night." He adds more seriously, "John and Sharon Peters, we really do appreciate them."

The two latest bodies Mr Walker has been elected president of are professional, technical scientific and research associations in New Zealand. They link up professionals in the dairy and food industries at all levels. The organisations cover university researchers, Crown Research Institute workers, production and research staff in companies, Government employees and even students.

Members meet to talk about issues involving food and food standards. Mr Walker says the dairy association executive will meet twice in the next two months and then have meetings by telephone.

Mr Walker is looking forward to 2010 when the world club of Dairy Countries comes to New Zealand and a joint conference with the Australian equivalent of the dairy association, Dairy Industry Australia, is possible.


(c) 2008 Daily News; New Plymouth, New Zealand. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.