Wednesday, 31 August 2022 11:55

Success in the face of world turmoil

Written by  Peter Burke
New chair of the Dairy Companies of NZ (DCANZ) Matt Bolger. New chair of the Dairy Companies of NZ (DCANZ) Matt Bolger.

A world in geopolitical turmoil highlights the need for good, genuine relationships.

That’s the view of Matt Bolger, who’s just taken over as the new chair of DCANZ – the organisation that represents the nation’s dairy companies on matters such as trade access and other issues common to all companies.

He says, in such difficult times, people often become protectionist and that can lead to trade, supply chain and physical disruptions. This is especially the case when dealing with a perishable product that has to be transported over long distances.

Bolger says one of the reasons DCANZ has been successful as an organisation is because it has fostered strong collaboration and relationships among its members. He says it has created a forum where discussions can take place and common ground is found – especially on issues such as international trade.

“When you look at how different sectors have come through the last couple of years with Covid and the supply chain disruptions, I think it [the dairy industry] has gone really well,” he told Rural News.

“There are still a lot of challenges out there, but in general I have been pretty impressed at the way the sector has continued on.”

Bolger says all industries – not just dairy – and the NZ Government have generally worked very well together and have been open and positive in their approach to trade. He says this needs to continue over the long haul because trade agreements don’t happen overnight.

“They are built on a lot of things and take a helluva long time,” he adds.

Bolger's Background

For 42 year-old Matt Bolger, DCANZ is in a sense a part-time position, with his major role as Pro Vice Chancellor (chief executive) at Waikato University.

It would be grossly unfair to cast Matt Bolger in the mould of his famous father – former Prime Minister Jim – because at just 42 he has an enviable CV and string of achievements.

Born in Wellington, Matt Bolger says he and the family spent time on their farm in Te Kuiti and also in Taranaki, where father Jim was born. When the former PM was appointed as Ambassador to the USA, Bolger went with his parents and studied at prestigious Georgetown University in Washington DC. It was here that he completed degrees in international business, English literature and Japanese. He also studied in Japan.

“When I finished my studies I was looking to stay and work for period in the USA before coming home to NZ,” Bolger told Rural News.

“I managed to get a job with Fonterra, which had just been formed and had set up a sales office in Harrisburg Pennsylvania. I was getting on a plane or out on the road every day visiting customers or on the phones or with the supply chain team moving product from NZ around the States.”

A year later, Bolger was back in Fonterra’s head office in Auckland where for five years he worked in a range of roles in strategy, then operations looking at commercialising technology. Then he was posted to Chicago for another five years managing some global accounts to the US food sector.

He was also running a number of Fonterra’s relationships with some of the global food companies that were headquartered in Chicago and who had sales teams all round the world.

“That was an amazing time because I was working with some great people on the customer side, trying to create value for term and trying to create value for NZ.”

Back in NZ at Fonterra, Bolger worked again on a wide variety of projects including environmental sustainability programmes, digital tools for farmers and different shareholding arrangements. His last year at Fonterra was spent working on its capital structure.

His decision to take up the role of Pro Vice Chancellor at the University of Waikato’s Management School should come as no surprise. He says he’s always been passionate about education.

“I have been fortunate to go to great universities in NZ and the USA and Japan,” he says. “The move to Waikato University was not planned, but wow it’s fantastic and an amazing new opportunity.”

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