Okaihau dairy farmer Murray Jamieson has returned from a 10-day agricultural advisory mission in Peru to renew his campaign for election to the Dairy NZ board of directors.

If he tops the poll of five candidates when voting closes at noon on Wednesday he will be the sole Northlander on the eight-member board leading one of the most influential organisations representing dairy farmers in New Zealand.

While regional representation - once a key factor in farmer co-operatives - is now less critical than the need for directors with the best governance skills available, it still has an important part in farmers' perception of accessibility to a co-operative's leadership.

And, as the only Northlander on the Livestock Improvement Corporation board, Murray Jagger, of Whangarei Heads, told The Land: "The beauty with farmer-elected directors is they generally run multi-million dollar businesses themselves and the real benefit is they have skin in the game of the business they govern."


Mr Jamieson and his wife Vicki milk 430 cows on 160ha, with production this season substantially ahead of their 160,000kgMS target.

He is also a farm consultant and strategic advisor to Lincoln University, the Ministry for Primary Industries and iwi. Northland College commissioner Chris Saunders said he was the driving force behind a turnaround making the dairy unit on the 534ha college farm - once ranked in the top 10 per cent of farms in Northland for production - profitable for the first time in 10 years.

Mr Jamieson went to South America at the request of the Peruvian Government, who sought his advice on improving agricultural production on highlands covering 17 million hectares, 3000 to 5000m above sea level. New Zealand's highest peak, Mt Aoraki/Cook, is 3754m.

The highlands are old lake beds with the potential to be exceptionally fertile.

"Depth of topsoil ranges from 3-18m and varies from Pukekohe-type beautiful rich red soil, to deep rich black soil reminiscent of the Waikato and extremely fertile silt," Mr Jamieson said.

"The contour is flat, the climate is low humidity and annual rainfall is around 600ml. There is no rain in winter - that comes in November, December and January which is the growing season - so there is huge potential for arable farming with the application of fertiliser, improved grass species and irrigation."

Production on the highlands could be doubled, but the Peruvian Government and farmers knew they couldn't do it on their own.

"They want to work with New Zealand, often referred to as 'the golden paradise' because we're innovative, adaptable and very efficient farmers," Mr Jamieson said.


Education and joint ventures which would return some of the profit to New Zealand were keys to realising the land's potential and improving the productivity and prosperity of Peruvian farmers.

Mr Jamieson is compiling recommendations for the Peruvian Government and looking at assembling a working group, representing the best of New Zealand agriculture, to visit the Peruvian highlands next month.

"The Peruvian agricultural industries are on the cusp of change and their vision of the future is being shaped by what has been, and is being, achieved in New Zealand," he said.

Dairy farmers can vote online in the Dairy NZ director election on dairynz.co.nz.

The poll result will be announced at the DairyNZ annual meeting at Timaru next Thursday.