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Nuffield Loses A Great Scholar

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The Nuffield alumni lost one of its oldest surviving scholars with the death of John O’Connor in March. Father of 2015 scholar, Bede and Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor, the connection with the O’Connor family has been strong.John O’Connor, ONZM, was a passionate advocate for the dairy industry and was regarded as a pioneer for introducing dairy to the Buller district on the West Coast.
As well as a Nuffield Scholar, he was Federated Farmers National Dairy Chair, West Coast Provincial President and served for 48 years as a director on the Buller Valley, Karamea and Westland Dairy Companies.
A keen sports follower and marathon runner, Mr O’Connor was an active member of the West Coast Rural Support Trust even in his later life.
"If you’re a Coaster you’ll really appreciate the challenges there is farming near the mighty Buller River. Mr O’Connor epitomised the true West Coaster spirit through his determination and resilience to withstand the local climatic extremities. He also valiantly battled the scourge of TB in cattle and served on the RAHC – Tb Free as it is now called.
The West Coast farming community has lost one it its biggest battlers – he will be sorely missed," reflected Katie Milne, President of Federated Farmers.
West Coast dairy farmer and close friend Ian Robb, remembers Mr O’Connor’s engaging sense of humour and strong moral values.
"John had a kind, wonderful personality, he could relate to most people and the trials and tribulations they faced as farmers. He would always back the underdog and would seek out those doing it tough, and this was before the days of the Rural Support Trusts.
As his name goes, he definitely had that Irish charm. He was also a great orator and was adept at getting his point of view over in difficult conversations without offending anyone."
In his seventies, Mr O’Connor was so formidable and respected, he was still being re-elected to the Westland Dairy Companies when up against strong candidates.
"He didn’t always agree for example with the merging of the Coast’s dairy companies, but he soon got on with it, because he wanted farmers to succeed collectively," said Mr Robb.
Mr O’Connor is survived by his wife of 62 years, Del, six children and 20 grandchildren.