The deathof Biddy Fraser-Davies, Eketahuna's artisan cheesemaker, has been described as a heartbreaking blow for the small southern Tararua community and New Zealand cheesemakers.

"Biddy was an amazing woman who gave so much to this community," Charlie Death, chairman of the Eketahuna Community Board, said.

"She will leave a big gap."

Biddy began milking at Cwmglyn Farm at Mt Bruce in 2003 after she was given a calf she called Gwendoline.


Rising to five, the pampered herd lived without exposure to pesticides or chemical drenches, happy to chew their cud, amble to the one-cow milking parlour and produce quality milk.

In 2014 Biddy won the super gold award at the British Guild of Fine Foods World Cheese Awards in London with her traditional Cwmglyn farmhouse cheese and her cheese was served at Prince George's Government House playdate the same year.

"Biddy and I worked together on the community board for 15 years and she was a member of our Civil Defence group, in fact she was at a Civil Defence meeting last Monday night before her stroke on Tuesday," Death said.

"It seems she was up as normal to milk her cows Tuesday, but things went wrong and her husband Colin found her at the milking shed ... "

Death said Biddy was admired for her determination in battling bureaucracy, even more so after she came under the Ministry for Primary Industries spotlight following a Country Calendar programme in 2009.

After the show aired, she received an email from the ministry saying they would send an inspector to check her operation and her costs for making cheese soared from $100 a year, paid to Tararua District Council, to $5500 a year to MPI.

"The way she fought MPI was magnificent," Death said. "Battling bureaucracy was her hallmark."

But Agriculture Minister Damian O'Connor was at the Eketahuna Cheese Festival in May to announce a new template to enable an easier and cheaper way to certify cheese.


The announcement was Biddy's 76th birthday present.

"She was writing to Parliament so often and attending so many select committees, she could have been an MP herself," O'Connor said.

"In a country that has the biggest dairy exporter in the world, the compliance cost for small cheesemakers was dismissed.

"Biddy's persistence paid off. Politicians [eventually] convinced officials there could be a better way."

Death said what Biddy did for artisan cheesemakers and for the Eketahuna Cheese Festival was "wonderful."

"The esteem she was held in saw people coming from all around the world and New Zealand to the festival," he said.


Florence Jeanblanc-Risler, Ambassador of France to New Zealand, was present at festival, along with two speakers from England, Dr Paul Neaves and Jill Palmer.

At the festival, Jeanblanc-Risler said artisan cheese had a huge future not only in New Zealand but worldwide, praising Biddy as "a wonderful woman and a huge achiever."

There is likely to be another cheese festival in Eketahuna in May next year in honour of Biddy, Death said.

"But that will probably be the last," he said.

There will be no more production of Cwmglyn Farm cheese once the current stocks are sold.

However, Biddy's husband Colin intends to continue to operate the Middleton Model Railway which is a popular tourist attraction.


* There will be a memorial for Biddy at the Eketahuna Community Hall on Thursday, at 2.30pm.