Ex-MP now at helm of farmer group

Kaitangata dairy farmer Stephen Korteweg was presented with a Federated Farmers Otago life...
Kaitangata dairy farmer Stephen Korteweg was presented with a Federated Farmers Otago life membership in West Otago last week. PHOTOS: SHAWN MCAVINUE
Lawrence sheep and beef farmer Mark Patterson is the new Federated Farmers Otago president.

The former New Zealand First list MP was the only person nominated for the position.

In his inaugural speech at the federation’s annual meeting in West Otago Community Centre in Tapanui last week, he said it was an "honour" to be nominated for the position of president.

He put his "hand up" for the role because he wanted to "give something back" but would have preferred more members to have gone for the "top" position.

"It would have been nice if there was a bit of a queue," he laughed.

Farmers’ frustrations with central government were "welling up" and the finger was often wrongly being pointed at the federation’s leadership.

"It’s most unfair to point the guns at ourselves because we’ve never needed Federated Farmers more than what we do at the moment."

He congratulated former president Simon Davies, who was standing down after serving a three-year term.

"He’s been a fine leader," Mt Patterson said.

Former Federated Farmers Otago president Simon Davies (left)  and new president Mark Patterson...
Former Federated Farmers Otago president Simon Davies (left) and new president Mark Patterson celebrate the succession in Tapanui last week.
As president, Mr Davies had held his ground, while building bridges between a range of organisations.

In his president’s report, Mr Davies said his term had been "a privilege, extremely frustrating, stressful but rewarding".

He acknowledged the frustration of farmers towards central and local government but progress was being made.

"I have learnt that working with government and agencies will generally result in better outcomes than being kicked out of a room."

The final rules and regulations agreed on could often remain "impractical and stupid" but they were "generally more practical and less stupid than the original versions".

On another issue, he spoke how labour was an "extremely valuable and scarce resource".

"As an industry sector we are going to have to work much harder at recruiting, training and, most importantly, retaining our staff."

Good human resource skills were essential for farmers, he said.

Kaitangata dairy farmer Stephen Korteweg said he was "blindsided" by the presentation of an Federated Farmers Otago life membership at the meeting.

In his acceptance speech, he said his more than 40-year involvement with Federated Farmers Otago had been "reasonably enjoyable and sometimes a little disheartening" as the effort "behind the scenes" from the executive and policy team often went unnoticed by many "oblivious" farmers.

"They can only think about the cost of subs ... it never fails to amaze me."

Federated Farmers "punched way above its weight" and it was a "privilege to be part of that".

Dairy farmer Hamish Anderson, of Stirling, was presented the Robbie Burnside Cup for his service to the farming sector.

In his acceptance speech, Mr Anderson said he got involved with organisations because of the "feel-good benefit" of helping others.

"I feel sorry for people who take all their lives because they don’t feel that."

He told farmers never to feel bad about their occupation because past governments had encouraged farmers "to drain that swamp and clear that bush because production brings us overseas funds, which build schools and roads".

Farmers being blamed for any unintended environmental consequences was unfair, he said.

"I’ve never met a farmer who has wanted to leave his or her farm and the environment worse than when he started.

Farmers were "the ultimate conservationists" who wanted to do the right thing but they needed the "time and encouragement" to do it.

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