6 Jun 2014

Alistair Polson dies after short illness

3:30 pm on 6 June 2014

New Zealand's former special agricultural trade envoy, Alistair Polson, has died after a short illness, at the age of 58.

Mr Polson, a Whanganui sheep and beef farmer, was president of Federated Farmers from 1999 to 2002.

In 2004 he was appointed by the then trade minister Phil Goff to the role of special agricultural trade envoy - a position he maintained under the National-led government until last year.

Mr Polson served as a director of what is now Silver Fern Farms and the Agriculture Industry Training Organisation.

He served on the Veterinary Council and the then National Animal Welfare Advisory Board.

He had a strong environmental ethos and chaired the Landcare Trust and was chair of the Farm Environment Awards Trust - something those who knew him best said he was deeply proud of.

He was himself the recipient of the Grasslands Memorial Trust Award for sustained improvement of pastures and sheep breeds in Whanganui hill country.

He was a Nuffield Scholar and later chaired the New Zealand Nuffield Farming Scholarships Trust.

Phil Goff says nine years as the country's special agricultural trade envoy was a remarkable length of time.

"Alistair was an outstanding person. He made a huge contribution to New Zealand agriculture.

"As an individual I found him to be really competent, he was well-informed. I think most importantly in that position, he was a very personable and persuasive envoy and the work that he did was of really great value to New Zealand's interests."

Current national president of Federated Farmers, Bruce Wills, agrees that Mr Polson's experience and qualities had a positive and tangible effect on the $1.5b a year cost to New Zealand's economy of tariffs and trade barriers.

"Alistair's role was to talk to other agricultural producers, other agricultural exporters about the benefits of freeing up their trade.

"Bit by bit as trade as begun to free up in many parts of the world, we begin to remove that $1.5b cost to our economy.

"He didn't jump up and make a fuss about it, he just got on and built respected relationships, so he made a huge contribution."

Mr Wills says it is typical of Mr Polson that when his house was destroyed by the 2004 floods in Whanganui, he and his wife Bo put the community first.

"As soon as family and animals were sorted, he moved immediately to help others in his community when he was facing perhaps one of the more damaged properties in that entire flood episode.

"Just sums up the person he was, more happy to give to others than spending time on his own activities and I think that is one of the reasons why he was so respected, so successful and certainly why he will be so missed."

Mr Wills says Mr Polson will be remembered as a man of true mana who gave his all for New Zealand.