Federated Farmers puts science in the driving seat

TONY BENNY
Last updated 06:36 10/07/2014
New Federated Farmers chairman Dr William Rolleston.
TONY BENNY/Fairfax NZ

FARMING IMAGE: New Federated Farmers chairman Dr William Rolleston.

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

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 in an interview before his election.

"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 former general practitioner and 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 federation president's 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 they worked there in school holidays and 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.

-NZ Farmer

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