New OSPRI leader driven by farming background
OSPRI's Disease Control Planning and Integration manager Simon Andrew is passionate about the primary sector and ensuring New Zealand remains a world leader in agriculture.
Wairarapa born and raised, Mr Andrew, has been involved in farming from his schooldays as a farmhand.
Back then, he worked on dairy farms while also spending time with his father, who was a Bovine Tuberculosis (TB) tester.
In the early 90s, TB infections were spread nationwide with coastal Wairarapa overrun with possums who were transmitting TB among livestock.
"I remember my dad carrying out post-mortems to identify TB granulomas and that’s where I first encountered this disease and the impact it was having on farmers and livestock.
“I’ve always had farming related jobs, I worked in the freezing works at Hawera, I also drove tractors on my OE in the UK," recalls Simon.
Returning to New Zealand, Simon chose to pursue a career in disease management and joined the then Animal Health Board (AHB).
He started off as a contact centre operator, here he learned directly about farmers dealing with TB infected animals, before moving to Hamilton as regional partner.
"Looking back, I was fortunate to work with Dr Paul Livingstone who was leading the scientific strategy for controlling bovine TB. His ground-breaking research identified possums as the main wildlife carriers of TB and that has since shaped the development of our national programme.”
When OSPRI was conceived out of the AHB merger with the NAIT scheme in 2013, Simon seized the opportunity to expand his knowledge of animal disease management with the backing of Dr Livingstone.
He relocated to Christchurch as an advisor engaging with farmers, stakeholders and landowners on OSPRI’s pest control operations.
“These experiences were invaluable given the diversity of the role. One day, I was planning vector operations, next, collecting pigs’ heads and surveying them for TB. “
Back in Wellington, Mr Andrew became OSPRI research co-ordinator and during this period he studied and completed an MBA in Business Administration at Victoria University.
In 2015, he joined Federated Farmers, and later Agrecovery as General Manager where he spent the past four years before returning to OSPRI.
Always open to new challenges, Mr Andrew saw opportunities at OSPRI to make a difference.
“Biosecurity is the number one risk to our primary sector, and I believe OSPRI can make a significant contribution to support our farmers and industry.
“Farmers have invested heavily in the TBfree programme, and now we need to ‘finish the job’ and eradicate this disease for the benefit of future generations. There are biodiversity benefits too, pest control protects our native fauna and wildlife.
“It’s a privilege to return to OSPRI and to work for farmers. The industry is essential to New Zealand and our rural communities. The COVID 19 situation this year has highlighted the value of our primary sector, where our food producers alongside service industries and health professionals were key to to getting us through the crisis.”