Graham Smith is excited about being appointed chief
executive-designate of Federated Farmers, describing it as his
Mr Smith (57) has always been interested in the agricultural
sector, which he described as the sector most critical to New
When incumbent Conor English announced, in February, that he
would leave the rural lobby organisation in July after six
years in the position, Mr Smith thought it could be a
Australian by birth, he has a MBA from the University of
South Australia and a bachelor of economics from the
University of Adelaide. He has lived in New Zealand since
In April, Mr Smith was appointed chief executive of
Waikato-based business incubator SODA Inc.
Before that, he was chief executive of the Crown Research
Institute ESR (Institute of Environmental Science and
Research) for nearly three years.
Federated Farmers president Bruce Wills said Mr Smith
understood the strategic context in which the organisation
operated and was no stranger to the primary industries,
having been a former general manager at AgResearch.
The board was especially impressed by his commercial and
leadership skills and background in science and innovation.
He had managed an international technology commercialisation,
worked for several overseas food companies and had
relationships across the political and primary industry
sectors, extending across the Tasman, Mr Wills said.
With a focus on evidence-based policy, Mr Smith would be
instrumental in achieving policy outcomes which struck the
right balance between the country's economy and environment,
Mr Wills said.
Once taking over the role in late July, Mr Smith said he
would be getting out and talking to farmers and a range of
people in the sector, something that he would always need to
Asked what he saw as the biggest challenges, he said water
was going to be an ongoing issue, both in terms of quality
and, particularly, quantity.
It also needed to be ensured that Federated Farmers continued
to be relevant to farmers.
As a membership-based organisation, it had to continue to
offer a service to farmers that was both relevant and
He also needed to make sure he talked to a broad range of
people and still got his ''hands dirty'', he said.
Asked what sort of leadership could be expected, he said his
natural style was consultative, which he believed was
generally ''far more productive'', but he was nonetheless
capable of making hard decisions.
Mr Wills also thanked Mr English for a ''highly successful''
tenure, saying Federated Farmers and the agriculture sector
owed him a ''huge debt of gratitude'' and they wished him
well for the future.