We asked Mike a few questions about his career and how he got interested in New Zealand’s waterways.
What do you do at Fonterra?
I am the Water Programme Manager in the Social Responsibility Team. I work with a great team of passionate people who are responsible for developing and helping to deliver Fonterra’s Water Programme. This includes our 50 Catchments initiative, which is where we will be working with communities and our partners to regenerate 50 water catchments across New Zealand. I was seconded to this role from the On-Farm R&D team, which is part of Fonterra’s Research & Development Centre.
How did you come to be in this role?
I’ve been at Fonterra for about a year now. My background as a Freshwater Scientist means I have a lot of knowledge and experience to offer this role and I am enjoying the opportunity to help our farmers and NZ’s waterways. I came to Fonterra after eight years at DairyNZ, where I was an Environment Programme Manager and was involved in building industry capability to address environmental issues. I also led significant catchment projects around New Zealand. Prior to working at DairyNZ I spent 13 years at NIWA researching the effects of land use on water quality. During that time, my interests evolved from doing research into a greater emphasis on managing the effects.
How does it feel being involved in one New Zealand’s most talked about issues?
I’ve been involved in water issues in New Zealand for 25 years, and it is something I am passionate about. It is an absolute pleasure and privilege to be working in Fonterra to help develop our action plan on water.
How did you get interested in water in the first place?
I grew up around the rivers of South Canterbury so, like so many New Zealanders, waterways have always been a part of my life. My parents have a photo of me playing in the Opihi River when I was three. I now live close to the Waikato River in Hamilton and feel very strongly connected to that river.
What do you believe will make the biggest difference to New Zealand’s waterways?
To make a difference we first need to know what we’re trying to achieve. Once a community has a clear picture of what it wants to achieve the job of scientists and those implementing change becomes much easier. We need to recognise that different areas will have different challenges and solutions. Having clear, community-agreed water quality targets will do more to drive change than anything else.