Ngāi Tahu farm manager Ash-Leigh Campbell from Christchurch is the 2020 Fonterra Dairy Woman of the Year.

The prestigious dairy award was announced at the Dairy Women's Network (DWN) virtual awards this evening.

The other finalists were Auckland-based microbiologist and biochemist Natasha Maguire and West Coast dairy farmer Heather McKay.

All three woman contributed to the dairy industry in very different ways, which highlighted the depth and diversity of how women are contributing to the dairy industry in New Zealand, said Dairy Women's Network trustee Alison Gibb, who headed up the judging panel.

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"Ash-Leigh exudes energy and passion for the dairy industry and has actively sought opportunities to both contribute and grow in an industry she loves," said Gibb.

Listen to The Country on Thursday, May 7 for Jamie Mackay's interview with Ash-Leigh Campbell.

As the Ngāi Tahu technical farm manager, Campbell has been working for the South Island Māori iwi farming operation for more than three years.

In her current role she is responsible for assisting with the management and performance of eight dairy and dairy support farms that include 8000 cows.

After leaving high school, the 28-year-old studied at Lincoln University doing diplomas in agriculture and farm management as well as a degree in commerce majoring in agriculture.

It was during this time she had her first taste of the Dairy Women's Network, becoming a Regional Leader, and the driving force behind the DWN Lincoln group which has now merged into Selwyn.

She also assists with operational and environmental performance (audit and compliance), analytical projects and the implementation and improvement of sustainable farming practices.

Campbell is also chairwoman of the New Zealand Young Farmers organisation.

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Winning the Fonterra Dairy Woman of the Year award was "amazing recognition" of just how far she had come in the industry, said Campbell.

"The opportunities Fonterra and Dairy Women's Network have provided have given me the confidence to step out and grow in the industry in 10 short years.

"I've been bold, I've been brave and I hope this journey I've been on can showcase to other young wahine that anything is achievable."

Fonterra was proud to recognise and help develop women in dairying who set high standards for themselves and for the industry, said the co-op's chief executive Miles Hurrell.

"I want to congratulate Ash-Leigh for winning this award and also the two other finalists. They are all outstanding ambassadors for our industry and are contributing to the pathways that will enable the next generation of farmers to succeed.

"Ash-Leigh's commitment to sustainable farming and environmental protection is clear to see, and makes a real and positive difference in her local community and our industry."

As Fonterra Dairy Woman of the Year, Campbell receives a scholarship prize of up to $20,000 to undertake a professional business development programme, sponsored by Fonterra.