Dunbier dedicates honour to ‘the people I have worked with’

Dr Michael Dunbier, Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit. PHOTO: FAR
Dr Michael Dunbier, Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit. PHOTO: FAR
If Dr Michael Dunbier had his time again, he would change little except for maybe diving deeper into his specialty agricultural research.

Christchurch’s leading figure in plant breeding and agricultural science was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit on the New Year Honours list.

Dr Dunbier said the honour would hopefully shed more light on the expertise and wonderful achievements of the primary sector and particularly the cropping industry.

He said the complexity of arable farming wasn’t completely understood.

Farmers ran businesses of 10 to 12 crops which involved complicated rotations, they worked in isolation, they marketed their products and they had a technical expertise that was the "world’s best".

"I was surprised and gratified for the people I have worked with and because it’s recognition for them as much as me and of course for the family who are pleased for me."

The CNZOM is second only behind knights and dames in the gong stakes.

"I have been joking to the family it’s a morning honour, because it immediately follows the (k)night."

Jokes aside, he has enjoyed nearly every second of his career.

His plans were to give up lucerne cultivation only briefly after being appointed at DSIR Crop Research in 1993, but then the David Lange and Roger Douglas era in politics arrived.

"Everything changed and a good scientist’s job became more challenging with contesting for funds and contracting and I never got back. I have a lingering regret I never achieved as much in research as I thought I would, but would I change it? There wasn’t much choice, so we might as well enjoy it as we go along. I’ve always had a scientist’s heart, so I think that’s helped governance."

Dr Dunbier went on to become the foundation chief executive of the New Zealand Institute for Crop and Food Research until 2001.

He was the first overseas board member of the Australian Grain Research Development Corporation and played a key role in major joint Australasian research projects.

An initial board member of the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology, he became chairman of the Arable Food Industry Council.

Governance roles have included being on the board of Dairy InSight, AgResearch, the Foundation for Arable Research and Food Standards New Zealand.

That has seen him help shape research in arable, vegetable, floriculture and food industries and be part of a range of new crops and better varieties with desirable traits such as improved disease resistance.

He has stepped down from these roles and the plan was to retire. But a little gentle persuasion from Primary Industries Minister Damien O’Connor convinced him to go on the Food Standards Australia New Zealand board.


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