Tararua district mayor Tracey Collis is one of three top dairy women announced as finalists for the Fonterra Dairy Woman of the Year awards.

Dairy consultant, Rachel Baker from Central Hawke's Bay and Southland leadership coach Loshni Manikam, are the other finalists for the coveted award which will be announced on Thursday, March 22.

Dairy Women's Network chief executive Zelda de Villiers said the three finalists highlight the wide scope of skills and expertise evident among women in New Zealand's dairy industry.

"The role of women in this industry is unique and un-paralleled, and we're proud to recognise and celebrate their success," Ms de Villiers said.


"The skills and experience Rachel, Tracey and Loshni bring to the dairy industry range from local government and leadership development through to board and governance expertise.

"These women show an unwavering commitment to progressing the dairy industry internationally, yet still retain their links and involvement at a grassroots level in their home regions and communities. The awards are a Dairy Women's Network initiative recognising the unsung heroes of rural communities. "

Mrs Collis told the Dannevirke News it was humbling to be a finalist alongside very esteemed company.

"I am humbled to have received the nomination and extremely proud to be alongside Rachael and Loshni who I both know and have the greatest respect for. The icing on the cake for me is being able to share the success of being a finalist with fellow farmer and Dannevirke resident Lorraine Stephenson."

Stephenson is one of two finalists in this year's Dairy Community Leadership Awards.

Mrs Collis said she was nominated from within the community for being open and honest with constituents and communicating well with people and for courage in leadership both in farming and within the Tararua District.

"There have been many challenges in the past twelve months," she said.

"From fronting the closure of the Manawatu Gorge and the impact to our business and lives, the general election period with it's negative publicity which took a toll on farmers as we struggled with the wet season and within three weeks, an incredible period of hot and dry weather, while understanding the challenges the environment court ruling over Horizons Regional Council's One Plan created for dairy farmers and our district's wastewater consents."

Mrs Collis said being a voice for the community whether its farming, business or our district and working towards solutions which create good outcomes for everyone involved and understanding the issues which effect people's lives and making a difference where she can is important and the reason she believes she's been selected as a finalist.

" Not being afraid to be that voice, ask that question or lend a hand when necessary, are important traits," she said. Mrs Collis and husband Mike milk 220 cows in Eketahuna. The Collis' have judged several Sharemilker of the Year awards, having previously won the Manawatu/Rangitikei/Horowhenua region award in 2003.

Mrs Collis is an advocate for the representation and advancement of regional farming businesses and farmer wellbeing and is a member of the Institute of Directors and the Dannevirke Chamber of Commerce, and is a Fonterra networker and graduate of the Fonterra Governance and Agricultural Women's Development Trust Escalator programmes.

"Mike and I strive to be the best farmers we can for our family, the environment and to stay on top of the mortgage," Mrs Collis said.

"We have always focused on a low cost and profitable system. This has allowed us to progress through the industry from lower order sharemilking to 50/50 sharemilking and ultimately making the leap into farm ownership. As a couple we have never been scared to try new ideas, technologies and practices beneficial to the environment. This journey included five years of farming organically. Sometimes being a leader and in front of the game creates challenges and mistakes but we always learn and adapt from them. We have been a little less on the edge with the uncertainty of the One Plan as we, like the Tararua District Council, can only afford to spend money once.

"I have a love of learning and have always enjoyed professional development on and off farm. I have served in governance roles since the age of 18 and at the age of 45 understood I had a passion for governance. Being involved in local government allows me to enjoy using a wide range of skills including business, environmental, and social. Most of all I have a great love of people and am happiest when all those living in our communities are enjoying health and prosperity. Being connected with my community and working together for success fits well in farming and being a leader in the Tararua District.

"I think being named a finalist demonstrates to other dairy women how easily transferable our skill set is and how much we contribute and offer to the industry, our communities and New Zealand."

The 2018 Fonterra Dairy Woman of the Year receives a scholarship prize of up to $20,000 to undertake a professional/business development programme.