Keeping an eye on the ball

Matt Ward’s long involvement with rugby will undoubtedly serve him well in his role as B+LNZ’s North Island General manager.
Thursday, 15 March 2018

It is his ability to bring together and motivate a team –  skills honed through many years of coaching and playing rugby – which will come to fore as he brings together the farm and economic teams to better serve B+LNZ’s levy-paying farmers.

Raised on South Island sheep and beef farms, he had his sights firmly fixed at a career as a professional rugby player before losing his spot in the Canterbury Development squad to a young Chris Jack. He then trained as a teacher and his early career alternated between secondary school teaching and rugby – both playing and coaching – in NZ, Scotland and Ireland.

Eventually settling down in the Waikato (his chemical engineer wife works for Fonterra) he once again returned to coaching and developing rugby for various provinces before his role at the Bay of Plenty Rugby Union was dis-established.

Eager to return to his primary sector roots, Matt initially worked for Summit Quinphos just after the company was taken over by Ballance Agri-Nutrients. With Ballance, Matt moved up the ranks, eventually becoming Regional Sales Manager before joining B+LNZ.

Amongst the core beliefs, values and drivers that Matt will bring to the role, is helping others reach their potential.

“I get a real buzz out of seeing people succeed.”

Stepping into a newly-established role within B+LNZ means every day is different as he is working with a number of people, all of who have different demands on their time and skills.

In the seven weeks Matt has been in the role he, along with the new South Island General Manager John Ladley, have put together an operations plan and are working with Human Resources to write Positions Descriptions for everyone within their teams so there is no ambiguity about their roles.

Matt is also acting as a drafting gate and obstacle clearer so that the extension managers and economic service team can ensure this country’s red meat producers are getting the best value from their levy dollar.

“I’m really looking forward to supporting B+LNZ’s strategy of driving farming excellence and working with farmers to help ensure we have thriving rural communities.   A key priority over the next few months will be supporting RMPP to operationalise Action Networks.” 

He says the red meat industry needs to be telling the positive stories about its farmers.

“As custodians of the land, they truly value the environment and strive to leave the land in a better state than when they first came to care for it.”

Matt also represents B+LNZ on various stakeholder groups such as Wormwise and the Facial Eczema Working Group.

He says the B+LNZ role appealed to his affinity with rural New Zealand, his ability to build teams and see them succeed – and his willingness to make a difference.

“I believe in the organisation and its ability to work for farmers and for the greater good of rural communities.”

While Matt is based in the North Island’s Hamilton office, he makes it very clear that he will be working collaboratively with John to ensure the two Islands are not operating in silos.

“We see ourselves as a two-headed monster.”

He jokes that he has spoken more to John in the last few weeks than he has his wife, but still finds time to act as a taxi-driver, coach and Dad to the couple’s three children and coach Waikato University rugby.