The many helping to shape the dairy industry


When Les Grace first started driving trucks the seats were as “hard as a board” and the roads were rough… 51 years on he sits in his Edgecumbe home sipping tea and reflecting on how much times have changed.

“The seats are much more comfy, he laughs, but the biggest change has to be the technology, it’s mind boggling to think about how much the trucks have improved.”


In June of 1966 Les was ‘footloose and fancy-free’ and on holiday in Edgecumbe when he agreed to fill in as a temporary driver for a couple of days, those couple of days turned in a couple more and soon Les’ temporary job turned into a lifelong career.

“You don’t stick around in a job for this long if you don’t absolutely love it, and that’s something a lot of people feel about their role in the Co-op.

“Sure, the day-to-day is a job just like any other – you have your good days, and your bad days – but for me it’s about the people you work with inside these four walls and out in the community, I’m not much of mixer, but this job gets you out and about and I’ve got some good friends here.”

Les is proud to be one of the many who works to deliver the goodness of New Zealand dairy around the world. He’s also one of almost 500 people throughout Fonterra who belong to the 25-year club, which recognises those who have brought decades of dedication and passion to developing a thriving and progressive dairy industry.

Les reckons the reward for him and his fellow club members is usually the same: the opportunity to pass on their knowledge and love for the industry.

“Just like farming, for many of us working at Fonterra sites, dairy is about helping the next generation build on what we’ve achieved. The industry has come a long way since I first started, and it’s still changing by the day. What never changes, though, are the fundamentals of the industry. That’s the value of the people who stay with the Co-op – the expertise that time brings.”

For me it’s about the people you work with inside these four walls and out in the community.

Les grace, fonterra tanker driver

Fonterra’s Chief Operating Officer for Global Operations, Robert Spurway, says Les and his long-serving colleagues have played an important role by establishing Fonterra as one of the global leaders in dairy manufacturing.

“We often talk about the expertise of our people as one of the intangibles that really sets us apart, and I truly believe this is the case for people like Les,” says Robert.

“The fact is, any company can build a milk powder dryer or a cheese plant – it is, after all, just stainless steel. It is the remarkable knowledge that comes with such long tenure in the industry that can’t be easily replicated.”

Robert says within this group are people who have shaped the face of dairy not just here in New Zealand but right around the world.

“It is inspiring for me to know I am part of something that makes a difference to New Zealand and that will stand the test of time, and one day I hope I’ll be able to join this illustrious group.”

Les doesn’t see himself as illustrious, rather he says it’s about doing what you love.

“Some people don’t want to admit they like their jobs but I’m happy to say I love my work and right now I’ve got no intentions of slowing down”.