Horticulture Looses An Innovator
Roger Davies was a people person. He regarded people as being the priority right from the orchard to the boardroom. Mr Davies, chairman of HortResearch for six years until June 1999, and who's name has been synonymous with the New Zealand citrus industry for many years, died at his home in Kerikeri on Monday 21 February.
Mr Davies had been fighting leukemia for some months, yet still had a cheery smile and a cheeky quip. Even when the Governor General, Sir Michael Hardie-Boys presented him with the New Zealand Order of Merit at the Davies home earlier this month, Mr Davies joked that his wife Rae, had not known a week before that she would be hosting a Government House garden party.
For 40 years on his property at Kerikeri he had grown mandarins, oranges and kiwifruit, finally specialising in easy peel mandarins. He had been involved with the horticultural industry for 46 years. He was chairman of HortResearch for six years, a director of the New Zealand Fruitgrowers' Federation for 10 years, and had been chairman of the Fruit Research Council, and of the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Publicity Council.
Mr Davies made an enormous contribution to New Zealand horticulture. His efforts covered everything from research to generic promotion and the development of the citrus industry. He won the Bledisloe Cup for Fruitgrowing in 1981 for his commitment to seeing through the formation of the Kerikeri irrigation scheme.
He maintained his interest in the citrus industry until his death, and regarded maintaining an international focus as being a priority for the New Zealand fruit industry. Some years ago he forecast that targeting small specialist production to niche markets under consistent quality control standards would be the way ahead for New Zealand growers. "Aiming for small quality niches is one way we can gain a competitive advantage," he said.
HortResearch's CEO, Dr Ian Warrington said that New Zealand had lost a unique citizen and a person with an extraordinary passion for fruit growing. "Roger was a strong advocate for innovation and was always a champion for the contributions made by New Zealand scientists," he said.
"He was also a man who saw the merits of co-ordinating marketing efforts to protect the New Zealand brand and provide maximum returns to our exporters," Dr Warrington said. "His leadership and vision will be sorely missed."
Roger is remembered by industry colleagues as innovative, even brave, especially for the manner in which he marketed his own mandarins and promoted his orchard. He is also remembered for his sense of humour and his affable manner.