Bridge building key: Rolleston

TONY BENNY
Last updated 12:49 18/07/2014

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Federated Farmers has come a long way in raising its profile and the challenge now is to become credible in the eyes of the public, says new president William Rolleston.

When predecessor Bruce Wills acknowledged farming had an effect on the environment, that was a valuable step in bridging the divide between farming and non-farming sectors, said Rolleston.

"We've started that process and gone a long way in actually gaining that credibility.

"We needed a change of direction, we just can't keep having total resistance."

A founding shareholder of biologicals business South Pacific Sera, which manufactures sheep vaccines and products for the pharmaceutical and research industries, Rolleston brings a scientific perspective to the role.

"If I think about the next three years, we've got a new CEO who's got quite a strong science background and I also have a science view, and so it's got to be evidence- based.

"When you get that solid evidence, it's pretty difficult to refute. I find it easier to argue if I've got good evidence behind me and if I haven't, I tend to avoid the arguments."

His views on genetic modification have already caused controversy. "You look at what GM science might be able to do and you look at what the organic movement is trying to achieve and they're pretty much the same thing - it's how you get there that's different."

Rolleston's family have owned Blue Cliffs Station in South Canterbury since 1879.

William and twin brother John did not grow up on the station but worked there in school holidays. Now William lives in the historic homestead with wife Marion and three daughters.

After 18 years as a GP doing locum rounds, Rolleston gave up his practising certificate in 2002.

Blue Cliffs station is looked after by a manager and Rolleston splits his time between South Pacific Sera and his role with Federated Farmers.

A16 Rolleston on 'cowmageddon'.

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