30 November 2021

The final word

Our chief executive Wayne McNee reflects on his time at LIC and what’s next for him.

Wayne McNee, Chief Executive

Wayne McNee, LIC chief executive who in November is leaving the cooperative after eight years at the helm..jpg

LIC is a great company, the DNA of the New Zealand dairy industry.

I came to LIC from the role of Director General of MPI, after I led the merger of The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, the Ministry of Fisheries, and the New Zealand Food Safety Authority.

I wanted to move to the private sector after 18 years in the state sector. I wanted to work in the dairy industry as in my view it is the engine room of the New Zealand economy – it was then, it is now, and it will be for many years to come.

While other sectors come and go, the dairy industry leads the way.

There is work to do on the environmental footprint of the sector, but LIC is one of many companies working to find the solutions.

I am proud of the contribution I have made at LIC, and the contribution LIC makes to the New Zealand dairy industry.

I am most proud of the ongoing investment LIC makes into research and development (R&D) and the benefits that brings the sector, over 6% of revenue, the highest percentage of any company in the New Zealand food and fibre sectors.

Being a co-operative helps LIC have a long term focus, investing in science which may not pay back for a decade, and may never pay back.

Over my time in the role I have particularly enjoyed getting out and visiting our farmer shareholders all over the country. Apart from the last 18 months which has been affected by COVID-19, I have been to dairy farms from the far north to the deep south, large corporate operations and small owner operators.

CustomerWatch -Northland_March 2014 PHOTOS_Page_03.jpg

Wayne (second from right) out on-farm.

It’s great to see the passion farmers have for the dairy industry, for their family farms, and for their cows.

I have seen farmers who care deeply about their herds. I’ve also seen a lot of innovation in all sorts of ways on farm, from ways to reduce the impact on the environment, ways to better care for cows, and different business models to make their farms more profitable.

But there are challenges ahead.

Climate change, both its affect on our environment and the changes needed to reduce the production of methane, is one of those challenges. LIC is doing everything it can to help farmers meet these challenges, through the use of genomics, through research into low methane emitting cows, and breeding more heat tolerant cows.

On the plus side, it does seem consumers are prepared to pay for quality, and the sustained high milk prices we are seeing certainly help farmers invest in their future.

What next for Wayne?

I have now been a chief executive for almost 23 years back-to-back without a break, starting at PHARMAC in 1998, and finishing up at LIC.

My plan is to spend time over the summer with my wife Natalie and my two little girls Ella and Hazel. Hopefully if Covid allows spend some time with the family at the beach. I will be heading back to work some time next year – but the details of that are not finalised just yet.

But whatever happens, as I said at the start, the dairy industry is the engine room of the New Zealand economy and I congratulate you all on the contribution you make to our country