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Chair Update: Andrew Watters August 2018

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I hope you agree with me that the Tauranga Biennial Nuffield conference was a great event.  It had a nice mix of local content, thought leadership and catching up with old friends.  I thought our new scholars did a very good job of presenting their project findings and their views on the issues and opportunities facing New Zealand and global agriculture.  And for them, it is a perfect introduction to the Nuffield fold.  The mix of youthful enthusiasm and wise perspectives from our range of generations is a strength of our Nuffield body. 

Thank you’s have been extended to the local organising committee led by Dave Hurst; the conference was well organised and operated with a $15,000 surplus assisted by securing valuable local sponsorship – this surplus has been transferred into the Nuffield Capital Fund. 

At the AGM, James Parsons was elected to fill the vacancy left by Juliet Maclean and I was re-elected.  Following the meeting the board elected me as your new Chair.  Thanks to Lucy Griffiths and Steve Wilkins for also being prepared to put their names forward for election.   

I would like to acknowledge the service of Juliet Maclean with her contribution of six years as a trustee including the past two as chair.  Juliet was instrumental in setting up the original consortium between Lincoln University and Nuffield New Zealand which provided both a potential leadership pathway for people in agriculture but also enabled the organisation to take on professional management.  Her work culminated in forming the New Zealand Rural Leadership Trust (NZRLT) with full operational control of the Kellogg scholarship programme.  The outcome is to be appreciated but the behind-the-scenes work from Juliet along with our GM, Anne, was critical to the outcome.  Juliet also led our 2017 strategy review process which resulted in the rebranding of our programmes and the branding of the Trust, and the consideration of the Rural Thought Leadership and Advocacy Project.  Juliet has left Rural Leaders and the Nuffield program in exceptionally good heart and she has set a high mark for us all to perform to. 

The constitution of NZRLT requires four scholars elected by the Nuffield Alumni and two independents who are approved by our strategic partners.  Hamish Fraser has and continues to fill one of these roles, and we have had a vacancy that we are close to filling.  We have run a very successful recruitment process with 26 high quality applicants, quite astounding given this is a voluntary role.  At the time of writing we are completing referee checks on our preferred candidate.  A key element for us is seeking diversity in skills, experience and thought.  We look forward to announcing the appointment in coming days. 

Two related matters raised at the AGM was the fact that we have been holding AGMs only at our biennial conference (the constitution requires an AGM to be held annually), and that the Nuffield NZ financial reports are less meaningful now given all operations are under the Rural Leadership Trust.  The board have considered both these matters, we intend to hold an AGM via webinar in off-conference years and we will report the financial results of the NZRLT to the Nuffield alumni, noting that this is a separately constituted Trust and reporting structure. 

One general comment from past scholars and our strategic partners is the need to ensure that we get sufficient representation from grass-root scholars in our Nuffield programme.  This will be a continued work-on for the board including our processes for attracting applicants and how we assess applicants.  Although our agricultural economy is seeing the traditional within and outside farmgate boundaries blurring, we do need to get the balance right between selecting scholars who can shape the future of NZ agriculture and equipping our grass roots to work in a more complex world, including as farmer elected members on co-operative and industry boards. 

The thought leadership programme is progressing, albeit with small steps.  Work with other rural leaders and in particular our strategic partners suggests strong support for mobilising our Nuffield and Kellogg alumni to ensure that we win the debates on matters important to the future of rural communities.  We have decided to trial our first initiatives on a couple of regions to ensure that we learn ‘how’ we can be effective.  We expect to be in touch with scholars in those regions this spring. 

Michael Tayler and his team continue to work on the 2020 triennial conference which of course is a combination of our NZ biennial and the international triennial.  There is some consideration at Nuffield International that this may be the last triennial (perhaps replaced by annual travel opportunities flowing from the annual CSC conferences) although we need to see more debate on the proposed changes. It is important that our NZ alumni support this event in all ways and we will come back to you soon to help market the event with your cohorts. 

Finally, it is pleasing to report the on-going growth of the NZ Nuffield Farming Scholarship Trust’s fund performance.  As at the end of June the fund’s balance was $811,000 with an 11.74% return in the last 12 months and a time weighted return of 12.83% since inception (May 2010).  The fund has been supported by donations from scholars and business partners, but the growth strategy implemented ably by Craigs Investment Partners has been a significant help.  You will read separately about Peter Jensen’s generous ‘giving back’ which has been an important contribution to the fund.   

I wish you the best for the spring ahead; we have rarely seen agricultural prices so firm (other than wool) right across our industry and although there may be trade headwinds ahead there is at least some NZD relief being bought to bear.