Obituary: Graeme Lowe, industry giant remembered

By Patrick O'Sullivan

Tributes are flowing for Hawke's Bay businessman Graeme Lowe who passed away on Sunday aged 77, after a 15-year battle with Parkinson's disease.

Primary Industries Minister David Carter extended his condolences and said Mr Lowe was "a true pioneer of the meat industry, leading Lowe Corporation from its inception in 1964 to become a major animal by-product processor and exporter".

"He was a hugely respected figure whose contribution to the industry was recognised just a fortnight ago when he was inducted into the New Zealand Business Hall of Fame.

"As an entrepreneur, Graeme was not afraid of taking risks and his innovative ideas brought a new level of business thinking and technology to the modern meat industry.

"Graeme was also a very generous supporter of Hawke's Bay charities and organisations."

Ian Wilmot, general manager for the Hawke's Bay Helicopter Rescue Trust, said the trust was deeply saddened at his passing and indebted to him as were those who's lives had been saved.

"Without Graeme's original vision and his enduring support since 1992 the rescue helicopter service, for the people of Hawke's Bay on a free 24/7 basis, would not exist," Mr Wilmot said.

Sport Hawke's Bay CEO Colin Stone said Mr Lowe's support for sport in Hawke's Bay was as legendary as his exploits in the business world.

"When the Lowe name was applied to any sponsorship it added an extra depth of credibility to the sport," he said.

"It was, and still is, a quality mark for success and the sporting world in Hawke's Bay will always be grateful for the passion and commitment he showed to our sector in Hawke's Bay."

Friend and colleague Tony Deller worked with Mr Lowe as he built his empire from a butcher's shop in Heretaunga St to a world-wide export corporation.

"He was a big man, he was a good man, he was a visionary," Mr Deller said. "He was the first one to really send meat to the Middle East."

At full capacity Lowe Corp provided jobs to more than 1500 people.

"He had huge respect from all the staff in all the plants," Mr Deller said.

After selling his meat processing plants in 1998, Mr Lowe continued to operate companies associated with the meat industry in tanning and rendering. Lowe Corp is the largest privately owned byproduct processor of hides, pelts and protein recycling in New Zealand and at the peak of the season employs 400 people. The company has interests in other agri-business companies, property and farming assets.

Keith Cooper, chief executive of Silver Fern Farms said he first met Mr Lowe 25 years ago and said he was clearly an innovator and Silver Fern had benefited from Mr Lowe's initiatives.

"He challenged what was a constrictive environment for meat legislation," Mr Cooper said.

"He was one of those outstanding individuals who was a pleasure to do business with. He had one hell of a personality, which sometimes is lacking in business now."

Meatworkers Union spokesman Roger Middlemass said Mr Lowe was an entrepreneur in the true sense of the word and boosted the whole industry.

"When he started he was fighting the industry establishment - and won," Mr Middlemass said.

"He was a multi-talented individual and industry innovator; a very good businessman.

"He got me arrested once, we laughed about it later. These things happen.

"As an individual he was also very talented. He sailed the Atlantic and piloted his own plane. His passing is a great loss."

Tim Foley became Mr Lowe's stock manager in 1988.

"He always looked for new ways to do things," Mr Foley said.

"He challenged what was considered normal and looked for better ways to do it.

"He was a hard taskmaster but rewarded you for doing well in many different ways."

One of the rewards was to share in big-game fishing adventures in Fiji.

"What I warmed to, was you were always welcome to his home and made to feel part of the family, by all of the family."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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