Wow, did Aoraki Mount Cook turn it on for the 64th annual NZGFA conference. There was snow, there was sun, Mount Cook was out in all his glory, it was awesome! The Canterbury branch welcomed 133 NZGFA members, 30 invited guests, speakers and businesses and 77 sponsor representatives to the stunning Hermitage Hotel on Sunday 27th June 2021 for a 2.5-day conference all about Resilience.
As a branch who had to prepare for a conference twice, after having the 2020 conference cancelled due to Covid-19, it could not have been a more fitting theme. Especially considering they were still dealing with covid restrictions thrust upon us at the last minute before the conference! We have all had to be resilient over the past 18 months, as people and as an industry. Having all 240 of us fill a hotel that was shut down due to the pandemic last year as its overseas market has been unable to return was another testament to resilience, and the ability of Kiwis to adapt and thrive in the face of adversity.
We woke up to snow falling outside on Monday morning and could see kids out playing in fresh snow – it was quite magical. Not one to be outshone by snow, our morning speakers included outgoing EO Melanie Dingle with our 2020 award winners; industry updates from Mel, President John Schultz and NZAAA President Tony Michelle; a thought-provoking Spreadmark session with James McCloy and Graeme Martin; passionate local farmer/environmentalist Jane Smith called upon all of us to challenge the status quo and then there was a very enlightening survival team challenge run by the dynamic MC Mark Inglis which very few of you survived! The afternoon kicked off with an excellent Health and Safety session from National councillor Grant Anderson and SBS’s Rob Thomson. David Downs ended the day in the theatre with a rousing call for us to take from challenges the ability to innovate, adapt and be better than we were before.
Robert Bruce kicked off Tuesday with his tales of resilience and how he is helping others to become more resilient too with his Got to Get Out initiative encouraging mental and physical wellbeing. Tina Powell from Southland filled in at the top table for the AGM when Mel was taken ill, she will probably never come to a conference breakfast again after being spied across the breakfast table by John and roped into this job – thank you Tina! AGM minutes are supplied elsewhere so we will not go into depth here except to say a huge congratulations to Dean Brooks on receiving his Life Membership, very well deserved. Also we farewelled outgoing president John Schultz after two years in the hot seat, these have not been an easy two years for John personally after the heart-breaking loss of his boy and business partner, Cam, in a spreader truck, and yet he continued to serve us all with the strength, steadfastness and straight-shooting character that we know and love, thank you John! We then welcomed the astute and passionate Graeme Martin into this role and know it is in good hands to continue to keep us moving forward and being industry leaders in our field. During the day, there were a number of areas that members wished to see the council investigate this year – a name change away from NZGFA to include the word ‘spreaders’ or ‘groundspread’ for marketing reasons such as google searches; more discussion/direction around Spreadmark; and panel discussions about industry hot topics.
Business was wrapped up early on Tuesday to allow attendees to explore the venue, take in a big sky experience in the theatre, head outdoors for a walk, or sit in pockets about the venue in smaller groups with a drink in hand and enjoy the camaraderie and banter. There was a lot of laughter everywhere you turned.
Gala night was an absolute ripper – the food, the speakers, the awards, the band, the open bar – it was a real celebration of our industry – one we had to wait two long hard covid years for – but hey, that is celebrating resilience right there!
Thank you to everyone that attended, to all 33 sponsors of our event, to The Hermitage, to Mark Inglis and all of our speakers, we hope you all enjoyed yourselves just as much as we did!! See you all in Taranaki for conference number 65 in 2022!!