Efforts helped NZ grow
Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit – Professor Ian Warrington
As a young lad, Professor Ian Warrington picked apples to help fund his university study.
But that young apple-picker went on to revolutionise the apple and kiwifruit industries through four decades of research and has been named Manawatu's latest Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit.
Prof Warrington is one of seven Manawatu people recognised in the New Year's Honours list, alongside Robert Neale, Roy Tankersley, Maureen Reynolds, Peter Ellery, Kevin Greer and Ivan Mandahl.
Prof Warrington began working in horticulture when the industry was not a big export earner.
"It was a tiny industry and an industry not really taken seriously by a lot of people, particularly policy makers," he said.
Yet through years of research, he can be credited with boosting the yield and quality of apples and kiwifruit in New Zealand.
The country's horticultural export market has shot from less than $100 million a year in his early career to more than $2 billion.
"It's just been a privilege to be part of that growth and be part of the research that helped the kiwifruit and apple industry succeed," he said.
Prof Warrington said the award was as much for the people he worked with as it was for himself.
"I have worked with some really creative and inspiring people who assisted New Zealand to be pre-eminent in all areas of horticulture."
Prof Warrington's interest in plants and nature grew from his upbringing in Hastings.
"I enjoyed the broader aspects of horticulture in that environment, where we had nice gardens around us, the blossom festival or crops being harvested."
After odd jobs working in Hawke's Bay fruit fields, he departed for Massey University to study horticulture.
From there his international and local reputation as a horticulture expert grew, particularly in kiwifruit, apples and ornamental plants.
He set out with fellow researchers to do something unique to improve crop industries, he said. The team faced great challenges.
"The most frustrating thing is continual changes to science administration and funding in this country – it is even now going through another cycle."
He credited his family for their ongoing support, even sacrificing public holidays to help out.
He recalls a few years ago beginning a grape trial on Boxing Day with the help of his wife, Blondie Warrington. "It's been important to have a family interest in what I do."
Mrs Warrington said it was a well-deserved honour for her hard-working husband.
Prof Warrington spent the last decade breaking down barriers between Massey and Palmerston North as the university's regional chief executive. He left his role in May. But life hasn't slowed.
He travels extensively for responsibilities, including being co-chair of the International Horticultural Congress, and a member of the boards of Manfeild Trust and the Bio Commerce Centre.
He can also boast industry awards, including life membership of the Horticultural Society.
"I have enjoyed contributing to the apple, kiwifruit and ornamental plant industry, and if I have made a difference that's great. I can slow down, I suppose, but I have always admired people who keep contributing when they can, but know when to stop."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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