WRONZ leader proud of legacy

Injecting funds into research, without eroding the capital remaining after the winding up of the Wool Board, is something retiring Wool Research Organisation of New Zealand chairman David Douglas is proud of.

The North Otago farmer, who is stepping down after eight years as a director and five years as chairman of WRONZ, is one of three farmer representatives on the industry body that oversees post-farm gate wool research.

Capital had been built up from $28 million to $32 million and all research funding commitments had been met, Mr Douglas said.

A key achievement during his term had been the formation of the Wool Consortium in 2010.

That secured government funding for wool research by proving wool processors and marketers, together with wool growers (through WRONZ), were prepared to contribute financially to it.

Each year, WRONZ invested $1 million in the Wool Consortium, and wool processors and marketers invested $500,000.

That was matched by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, creating a total of $3 million for post-farm gate research each year.

The consortium had not just increased the funding pool but had also shown a shift in thinking towards research on specific commercial projects, Mr Douglas said.

Helping private companies create new products was where New Zealand wool growers stood the best chance of lifting wool prices. That focus on new uses for strong wool, beyond carpets, was where it needed to be, he said.