Home > News > Archive > 8th June 2006

Queen’s Birthday Honours for community minded farmers

Courtesy of Te Awamutu Courier
Alan Emspon QSM and Keith Storey MNZM
HONOURED: Alan Emspon QSM (left) and Keith Storey MNZM outside the Te Awamutu Events Centre, one of the projects they were both involved in. 159061AD

By Dean Taylor

New Zealand has honoured two Te Awamutu citizens who both believe giving something back to their community is an important ingredient in life.

Keith Storey has been made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to the dairy industry and the community and Alan Empson received the Queen’s Service Medal for public services.

Both men have remarkably similar backgrounds in terms of their business careers, views on their achievements in the public arena and work and projects that have been important in their lives. Both, I suspect, were fined in good humour at Te Awamutu Rotary when the announcements were made public.

Mr Storey served as director and chairman of the Te Awamutu Co-operative Dairy Company and deputy chairman of the merged Waikato Dairy Company for a number of years. He was also involved in a number of related dairy industry organisations and associations, such as the South Auckland Dairy Association, Products Advisory Committee of the New Zealand Dairy Board and the National Dairy Association.

Mr Storey credits an early understanding of the importance of getting involved in the community as the reason for the various appointments. He says his early grounding in Young Farmers, where he also held various local and regional offices, gave him a good background. As a young man from the family farm, he also had the opportunity to travel to the UK on an exchange, and developed a real sense of community. On his return he purchased his own farm and milked 40 cows, a modest, but important start in the industry.

Mr Storey progressed into Federated Farmers, where he was involved in a regional cadet programme to attract, train and retain people into the agricultural industry. The successful scheme went national and now forms part of the ITO training programme.

Progressive thinking and forward planning became a trademark. While chair of the South Auckland Dairy Association, Mr Storey saw a new programme of milk testing implemented which still exists today. A large sum of money was invested in an independent testing laboratory to bring consistency to the industry, especially when a number of dairy co-operatives were in existence. Mr Storey says as the industry was developing, change was needed to be competitive on the international market. He says he gained a lot of satisfaction when initiatives proved successful.

His own business grew also. The Storeys purchased their present block of land as standing scrub at the going rate of ten shillings an acre and got stuck into development on the coat-tails of go-ahead neighbour JD Wallace. The family farm now involves two sons milking 1000 cows.

And as well as his involvement in dairying, Mr Storey has served his community through various organisations, notably Jaycees, Rotary, Keep Te Awamutu Beautiful and the Rose Society. He was also chairman of the SECTA 2000 fundraising committee for the Te Awamutu Events Centre, chair of the Parish of St John management team and chairman of Waipa Networks Trust.

During his first term as Jaycee president, the club developed the Te Awamutu Rose Gardens. He was hands-on as well, working his machines to develop the land until about 1.30 in the mornings, then getting a few hours sleep before morning milking.

Mr Storey says he had mixed feeling about accepting the Queen’s Birthday honour, but in the end is proud to have served his community and to be recognised. He says the award really honours the commitment and support of his family, especially his wife Delyse.

Mr Empson also credits his early years with Young farmers and Federated Farmers for giving him good grounding for public service.

A Waipa District councillor representing Kakepuku for 14 years, Mr Empson says it is no secret he plans to retire from local body politics at the next election so he can be a family man to his 10 grandchildren, be with his wife Bev more often and still concentrate on their own businesses.

Mr Empson’s grandfather began the family farming heritage, leaving his dentistry practice in town to set up the farm at Pokuru which is still run by Mr Empson’s brother. Mr Empson says it was family expectation that everyone became involved in their community.

He has been a Rotarian and dairy supplier representative for over 30 years. The Empsons developed a dairy farm at Hairini, then in the 1980’s diversified into kiwifruit, asparagus and dairy goats. In typical fashion, Mr Empson became highly involved in each sector. He was part of the new industry groups that were formed to promote these fledging products. He has been a director of the Dairy Goat Co-operative of New Zealand since its inception, a successful business which has invested $30 million into infrastructure in Hamilton to produce a totally export orientated infant formula.

Alongside his business and family commitments, Mr Empson has been a respected and influential district councillor. He was elected in1992 and has represented Council on the Community Board and Museum Trust Board since, and has been Iwi Committee representative for 11 years.

In 1995 he became chairman of Council’s administration committee. He says that used to oversee the hands-on work of Council, but became unnecessary as Council’s role changed. He now chairs the policy committee.

Mr Empson says Central government has forced many of the changes on local bodies, and while he doesn’t think they are all for the best, they are unavoidable. He believes he brings practicality and a frugalness to Council, but believes in planned progress and growth. Mr Empson says looking back there have been notable achievements and successes, although at the time the work seems to be more about frustrations.

His most memorable achievement is the building of the Te Awamutu events Centre. Like Mr Storey on his tractor, Mr Empson could be seen on his digger, pitching in to clear the saleyards site for the development. The hands-on approach was a great boost to the project, both in time and money. His only regret is at the disappointing effort by the contractors to manage the facility to its potential and at Council’s poor management of the contract. He says a new era is about to begin, and he hopes the facility will finally be run as well as it deserves.

Mr Empson is also a St Johns parishioner who put his efforts into the fantastic restorations of St Paul’s and St John’s historic churches.

He says as he looks towards next year’s retirement from politics, he can honestly say he has done his best for his community and is proud of the honour that has been given to him.