Queen's Birthday honours: Greg Gent

By Mike Barrington

Greg Gent is giving his wife, Ann Flood, half of the credit for him being made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the Queen's Birthday Honours list.

He received the award for his services to the dairy industry and corporate governance. That work had taken him away from home a lot over the past 20 years, leaving behind duties Ms Flood had "picked up both on the farm and family-wise".

Mr Gent, 55, gave the other half of the credit for his award to the dairy industry, which he said had been good to him and given him a lot of opportunities over the years.

He began his career working for the Bank of New Zealand in 1972. After five years he moved into dairying with 70 cows on the Ruawai property previously farmed by his late parents, Jack and Jean Gent.

He married Ms Flood in 1984. They now have four farms running 1100 cows. Mr Gent said they had good long-serving staff and he tried to keep out of their way.

In 1993 he became chairman of the Northland Co-operative Dairy Company and led its amalgamation with Kiwi Dairies in 1999.

The dairy industry was deregulated in 2001. Mr Gent had a key role in the merger that then took place between the New Zealand Dairy Board, New Zealand Dairy Group and Kiwi Dairies, which formed the Fonterra Co-operative Group, New Zealand's largest company.

Mr Gent was Fonterra's deputy chairman under inaugural chairman, John Roadley, a former Maungaturoto dairy farmer who had moved to Ashburton in 1982 and became the last chairman of the Dairy Board.

Northland dairy farmers were disappointed Mr Gent missed the top job when former Dairy Group boss Henry van der Heyden became chairman of Fonterra after Mr Roadley resigned in 2002.

Mr van der Heyden had the deputy chairman role dumped soon after, but Mr Gent continued to serve as a shareholder-appointed representative on the Fonterra board until last year, when he did not seek re-election and stood down at the company's annual meeting in November.

Mr Gent now has a ministerial appointment as a member of the Northland District Health Board.

He is a director of the Southern Cross Group and is chairman of the Farmers Mutual Group.

A talented horseman in his youth, he also now holds the voluntary position of director on the Equestrian Sports New Zealand board.

He is well regarded for his style of steady, selfless leadership and his tireless advocacy for Northland farmers.

- Northern Advocate

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