With Peter Nation (Fieldays CEO)

NZ National Fieldays Society new CEO, Peter Nation, at home on his lifestyle farm at Tamahere, near Hamilton, Friday 22 January 2016. Photo: Stephen Barker, Barker Photography. ©Fieldays
NZ National Fieldays Society new CEO, Peter Nation, at home on his lifestyle farm at Tamahere, near Hamilton, Friday 22 January 2016. Photo: Stephen Barker, Barker Photography. ©Fieldays

Running two of the biggest events on the agribusiness calendar (Fieldays and Equidays) must be daunting task. However, new NZ National Fieldays Society CEO, Peter Nation, seems to be champing at the bit for starter’s orders.

-You’ve been on the Fieldays Society board since 2004 and VP since 2013. Why is now the right time to take the next step up and what does your new role entail?

It was time for me to make another contribution to the agribusiness market. I think I have a lot to offer given my experience and knowledge of the rural industry. National Fieldays Society is well connected and recognised and I can help further enhance the reputation and grow our industry involvement further with a strong focus on innovation.

I will be leading a team of staff and volunteers to grow and enhance one of the biggest agri shows in the world along with many other exciting events we run at Mystery Creek. I get to steer the direction of this exciting organisation through strategy and focus on the future. It’s quite the opportunity.

-Is there room for improvement with the events? What improvements can visitors expect this year?

Yes, there are always further opportunities. The society has invested huge amounts in the development of the site both in time and money. The master plans have enhanced the roading, increased the number of exhibitors and generally made the whole experience better. We will not stop there either, I have many things on my whiteboard and there are plenty more improvements to come!

-The society board is undergoing a bit of a ‘reshuffle’. Why the need for fresh faces?

It’s important to have fresh thinking and new skills on a board of any organisation. They bring new ideas and challenge each other. Organisations like Fieldays are evolving with the changing landscape, whether that be health and safety or other legislation, meeting our visitor and exhibitors’ expectations and demands or looking at new technology, we need strong knowledge, experience and connections of our board, together with sound governance.

-Will you miss working as National Sales Manager at rural product giants, Gallagher, and do you look forward to working with new board member, John Gallagher?

Yes. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with Gallagher. It was a big decision to make; Gallagher is a globally recognised brand, renowned for innovation and holds a special place in rural NZ.

The Gallagher family has been involved with the Society from day dot. In particular John and William are strong advocates for Fieldays, driven by a lifetime focus on technology and improving farmers business and profitability through new technologies. Anyone living around the greater Waikato knows their passion for giving and helping organisations grow and contribute, so it will be great to have John’s input and the continued support of the Gallagher Group as an exhibitor [at Fieldays], which they have been for the past 48 years.

-Do you have a background in farming or as a lifestyler? Either way, is there enough at these events to attract lifestylers, or are they focused on the ‘big boys’?

I was born and bred on a sheep and beef farm and have devoted my career to the agribusiness industry, however for the past 17 years, my wife and I have our own lifestyle block in Tamahere [south of Hamilton].

The beauty of Fieldays is that there’s something for everyone. Being a small farmer myself, I know that all the exhibitors cater well for our style of farming.

-Is it important for farmers to embrace the latest technology?

Simply put, yes! We must move forward. NZ is well known for producing pioneers in technology on-farm and for exporting our technology to the world. Mystery Creek events display and enhance this and help potential users understand it better, while supporting exhibitors and technology pioneers as they take their technology to the world.

-What are the most pressing challenges farmers will face in the near future and how can Fieldays help prepare them?

Fieldays will keep adapting to the needs of the industry, this is what’s drives us and gives us our competitive advantage. Environmental issues have challenged farmers of late, but I think these are now becoming very much part of their everyday business. Challenges that remain likely to affect farmers are labour, productivity gains, water availability and the costs of doing business – compliance, running costs generally. Also, they are crying out for better collaboration with the industry, whether that’s through technology, compatibility or support groups, for example. It is all a bit cluttered and if our organisation certainly will help with any of these challenges in any way we can.

-If you could grow any crop or raise any animal imaginable, what and why?

I’m not sure what exactly, but it would have to be something that was edible, healthy and had a minimum impact on our environment. It would need to yield well too, so we wouldn’t need huge space in which to grow it. Lastly, it’d need to be sustainable with little need for high input fertility; basically, a super food!

-If you could be Minister for Primary Industries for one day, what would you do first and why?

One day is probably not enough time, but I think I would call for better collaboration. To me, there seems to be huge duplication in our industry which increases costs and, in my opinion, confusion to end users. This has come about for the right reasons – trying to solve problems – but it seems we are not always doing the industry a favour and working together as well as we should. For the benefit of ‘NZ Inc’ we should be taking on the world, not each other!

-If you could invite any three people to dinner (living or dead) who and why?

Steve Hansen. He’s probably the most successful coach of a world sports’ team in my lifetime and a bloody good man manager. He’s not glossy or showy, gets on with the job, ensures he has great people around him, and he’s a typical, humble Kiwi bloke.

Sir Edmund Hillary. He did something no one else had ever done and he did the it the Kiwi way, through hard work and sheer determination.

John Key. He will probably never be the most popular prime minister but he certainly is one of the most intelligent and ‘normal’ New Zealander’s I’ve seen.

I know you said three, but I’m going to be cheeky and set another place at the table for Helen Clark. She’s probably the greatest woman politician NZ has ever produced. But, beyond that, she’s now well recognised on the world stage. She came from rural stock and can relate to any Kiwi, irrespective of political background. As PM, she had the ability to align herself with the ‘blue side’ when needed and under her reign I think New Zealand was going along okay.