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Award Recognises Contribution to Southland

Award Recognises Contribution to Southland Dairy Industry

Mention the dairy industry in Southland and it's likely the Flett family name will come up somewhere in the conversation.

The family has been linked to the Southland dairy industry since early last century and those links remain very strong.

However, it is the contribution of Jim Flett, the second generation of the family to run a dairy farm in Southland, that has been recognised with a Holden Lifetime Achievement Award in the Lower South Island regional final of the Fonterra Westpac Dairy Excellence Awards. Mr Flett was presented the award at a function in Invercargill last night.

The Lifetime Achievement Award is a new initiative of the Fonterra Westpac Dairy Excellence Awards. The award is open to anyone in or servicing the dairy sector and recognises contributions to the dairy industry both regionally and nationwide.

Awards Chairman and Fonterra Director Jim van der Poel says the awards aim to assist Fonterra's 17,000-farmer supply base to maintain their on-farm efficiencies and position as the world's most cost-effective milk producers in the world.

"This underpins our ability to prosper in the global market," he says.

Westpac General Manager Business Banking Bruce McLachlan says another aim of the awards is to profile dairy industry excellence and promote information exchange, through benchmarking and best practice.

Jim Flett's contribution to the industry certainly matches those goals having spent 34 years as a dairy company director before stepping down in 1995.

The former chairman of the Otautau Dairy Company was one of the key drivers behind the move that brought six smaller Southland dairy companies together to form the Southland Dairy Co-operative (SDC) - he was also deputy chairman of the SDC - and has been at the forefront of championing the industry in the South.

He is also an innovator in the region and in 1976 was one of the first in Southland to employ a contract milker. An on-farm Holstein-Freisian stud is another passion.

The Flett family links in the region go back to the arrival of Jim's father from Scotland in 1916. Jim and his brother took over the family farm in 1954 with Jim taking full ownership a few years later. His contribution to the industry also includes chairmanship of the Southland Federated Farmers Dairy Section and a similar role for the Southland Dairy Promotions Board.

His links with the promotions board were directly responsible for seeding the dairy boom that in recent years has seen dairy farming grow dramatically in Southland.

In 1991 Jim was one of eleven Southland dairy farmers that went to the Mystery Creek Fieldays in Hamilton to promote dairy farming in the area. The following year 28 new dairy farmers arrived in Southland with another 72 moving south the following year.

Jim retired from farming in 2000 but retains very close links to the industry and the Otautau area in which the family farms. Murray Flett, Jim's son, is a current Director of Fonterra, while Jim retains active roles in several Otautau community groups.

The Fonterra Westpac Dairy Excellence Awards are being run in seven regions and have the support of Dexcel. Holden New Zealand, Ravensdown, DTS, Livestock Improvement, Pioneer, RD1 and Fegan and Co sponsor the awards. Fonterra and Westpac are the principal sponsors.

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