Monday, 21 September 2020 11:05

Dairy awards debacle refuses to die

Written by  Sudesh Kissun
Not going quietly: Nick Bertram is refusing to accept the findings of a review into the national dairy awards saga. Not going quietly: Nick Bertram is refusing to accept the findings of a review into the national dairy awards saga.

Dethroned NZ Share Farmer of the Year Nick Bertram is refusing to accept the findings of a review into the national dairy awards saga.

The Tararua farmer claims some NZ Dairy Industry Awards (NZDIA) trustees and executives knew about the tweets he posted back in 2017 and provided evidence of this to Susan Hughes QC who carried out the review. 

Bertram believes he won the award fair and square after meeting all conditions of entry.

“We won because we where the best farmers…we are proud of that.  We will always be the first people in NZ to have held two national titles,” he told Rural News.

The tweets, including his suggested methods for introducing the animals to milking and the use of a pipe, were highlighted by animal rights group SAFE after Nick and wife Rosie won the national title in July.

The Bertrams were stripped of the title; it’s been awarded to runners-up Sarah and Aidan Stevenson of Waikato.

NZDIA says the review concluded that Nick Bertram was contacted by “people associated with NZDIA” to express concern and to request him to remove the tweets.

The contact was made in a personal capacity and not on behalf of the trust and those who made contact “all believed they were doing so out of a sense of responsibility as alumni of the NZDIA and concern regarding the ill-advisability of the tweets in question”. 

But Bertram says he spoke to two NZDIA Trustees about the tweets in 2017.

“I have a recorded phone call from Natasha Tere (NZDIA Trust chair) informing me that both these trustees offered their resignation. She has since informed me in a recorded meeting that their resignations have not been accepted following the QC’s report.”

He is also accusing NZDIA of withholding the full report of the review.

“NZDIA have had the results of that investigation for over a month.

“In a meeting, where we had permission to record, they said that they will be not sending the original report to anyone including the sponsors. They are only releasing a few quotes from the QC, and a bit of altered information following their own review on that report.

“We are concerned about the honesty of the original report. If they had nothing to hide they would share it.  Under the existing entry criteria, we were eligible to have entered.”

Bertram has acknowledged the tweets were wrong.

“I hope young farmers will learn from the mistakes I have made on social media,” he says.

A NZDIA spokeswoman says some within the NZDIA family were aware of the tweets and this was reviewed by Susan Hughes as part of the terms of reference.

She says it released the “findings and recommendations” from the review out of respect of those involved.

She says it’s critical that the dairy industry moves on from this event as the industry is just too significant to New Zealand.

NZDIA organisers will ensure the 2021 Awards programme has more focus on social media in declaration and interviews.

“We will showcase best practice and allow entrants to benchmark and improve their own farming practices,” the spokeswoman told Rural News.

Entries for 2021 competition open October 1.

The dangers of social media

Recognise the dangers of social media, says Susan Hughes QC, who carried out the review into the 2020 NZ Dairy Awards twitter saga.

Hughes says everyone involved in the NZ Dairy Awards must be reminded of the perils of social media along the application trajectory, “so as to avoid a repetition of these events.”

“It is clear that all [who] I have interviewed are passionate about the dairy industry. All want the New Zealand dairy industry to be seen as world leading, all strive for excellence.

“All of those interviewed expressed sadness that such an event could have been avoided if the tweet was declared as part of the declaration or if the matter had been raised.”

NZDIA Trust chair Natasha Tere says the mission of the NZDIA is to provide a platform to reward excellence and showcase best practice within the farming sector.

“This includes rewarding leaders and building respect and pride for the industry. A title holder is an ambassador for NZDIA and the farming community as a whole.”

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