New Zealand business leader and dairy industry identity Sir Henry van der Heyden has received the 2015 Rabobank Leadership Award, in recognition of his exceptional contribution to the food, beverage and agribusiness sectors. The Rabobank Leadership Award is presented annually to individuals who create sustainable growth and prosperity at both a corporate and industry level in agribusiness, while demonstrating a wider commitment to society.
Sir Henry, the former chair of global dairy giant Fonterra, was presented with the prestigious trans-Tasman award at the annual Rabobank Leadership Dinner in Melbourne, Australia in front of more than 230 agribusiness leaders and industry professionals.
Presenting the peer-nominated and judged award, Rabobank Australia & New Zealand Group Managing Director Thos Gieskes said Henry van der Heyden’s impact on – and contribution to – New Zealand dairy has been “so significant and profound, it is impossible to imagine the modern dairy industry without him”.
“His role in guiding and driving the evolution of New Zealand dairy over the past two decades has been absolutely pivotal. But more than that, in playing a central role in forging New Zealand’s ascendency on the global dairy stage, Henry has also been very much a champion of ‘New Zealand Inc’. Promoting the interests of New Zealand, its people and its industries is very much a motivating factor in all his activities and business interests.”
A dairy farmer, beginning in share-milking and purchasing his first dairy farm in 1985, Sir Henry emerged to become the most influential architect in the evolution of New Zealand’s dairy industry over a critical 20 year-period for that sector. As chair of New Zealand Dairy Group (NZDG), Sir Henry was a key player in the creation, in 2001, of global dairy industry powerhouse Fonterra, which was formed from the merger and integration of the three major dairy players in New Zealand – NZDG, Kiwi Dairies and the NZ Dairy Board.
Becoming chair of Fonterra in 2002, he held that position until retiring in 2012.
A strong believer in the critical importance of shareholder engagement, Sir Henry’s other major achievements have included introducing share trading among dairy farmers (TAF) and establishing the Shareholder Council at Fonterra.
Accepting the award, Henry van der Heyden described his leadership style as essentially “very simple”, with engagement being the key component. “I try to paint a very simple picture of what the future can look like, and, through painting that picture, hope that my passion and commitment to the outcome actually comes through, so that other people can feel the same excitement that I do,” he said.
Sir Henry acknowledged the importance of leadership in creating change and conceded this path could be challenging. “To set up a global cooperative and to get all the stakeholders – 10,500 farmers – on-side and heading in the same direction is easier said than done,” he said
Sir Henry was awarded New Zealand Chairman of the Year in 2012, New Zealand Herald Business Person of the Year in 2007 and Federated Farmers’ 2013 Agri Personality. In 2009, he was appointed a Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit.
Sir Henry is part of a dairy dynasty, saying “milk runs through my family’s veins”. His parents moved to New Zealand (from the Netherlands) in 1955 to become dairy farmers and set up a future for the next generation. Five of his six siblings are involved in the dairy industry as are three of his own four children.
Sir Henry, his wife Lady Jocelyn and their family continue to run their own four dairy farms in the Central North Island. He is Chair of Tainui Group Holdings, the commercial arm of leading tribal organisation Waikato-Tainui. Other positions include chair of both Auckland International Airport and Manuka SA, while he also sits on the boards of Foodstuffs North Island, Pascaro Investments and also Rabobank New Zealand and Rabobank Australia.