Right time to go says wine boss
After six years leading New Zealand's wine industry, Stuart Smith feels it's time for a change.
He is standing down from his roles as chairman of New Zealand Winegrowers and president of New Zealand Grape Growers.
Mr Smith believes he has done a good job, despite the challenges of guiding the industry through the global financial crisis, over-supply, falling grape prices and an over-valued New Zealand dollar.
As the industry starts to regain confidence, he feels the time is right to move on.
"I didn't feel like I could leave unless the industry was on the upswing.
"I was always confident it would bounce back, I just didn't know when."
Mr Smith, who took on the role in 2006, has had to make some unpopular decisions, such as dealing with the over-supply of wine.
Although he may have upset people, he was "comfortable" he did his best for the industry, he said.
"I've met some wonderful people. It's been a big learning curve, but these opportunities don't come very often, so you have to make the most of them.
"I've enjoyed the opportunity to listen to other people's point of view, but I don't have to agree with them and ultimately I'm the one who has to make the decisions."
The role would not suit anyone who could not live with criticism, and much like politicians they needed to have a thick skin.
Mr Smith is believed to be a possible National Party candidate in Marlborough, but he did not confirm the speculation yesterday.
Although the industry was faced with a "wonderful opportunity" to extract higher returns and build stronger profitability, his successor and the industry would have no shortage of challenges, he said.
Such issues included reviewing the structuring governance of the industry and tackling problems caused by the high value of the New Zealand dollar.
The biggest personal highlight of his service was being involved in the strategic review of New Zealand Winegrowers.
Some of the recommendations have been implemented, such as hitting the high level markets and where to spend and allocate money. But there was still plenty of work to be done, he said.
"The industry has changed fundamentally, and the review has been all about embracing that change; getting ourselves into the best position to take advantage of them."
Mr Smith will remain in his roles until October, when the boards will vote on successors.
- The Marlborough Express