NZ Local News

Obituary: LandCorp chair Dr Warren Parker remembered for humble Northland beginnings

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Dr Warren Parker, chairman of Pāmu. Photo / Kara Tait

Dr Warren Parker who was the current chairman of Pāmu – Landcorp died suddenly on December 29, aged 68.

Parker had an outstanding academic career and was heavily involved at the highest levels of primary sector governance, being actively involved in both the private and public sectors.

Among his roles was the current chairmanship of Pāmu. He was a former chief executive of Scion (the Forest Research Institute) and Land Care Research and previously chief operating officer of Ag Research. He also held board roles on Genomics Aotearoa, Farmlands Co-operative Society, Predator Free 2050 and was chair of the Forestry Ministerial Advisory Group. He was also chair of the NZ Conservation Authority and recently appointed independent chair of Quayside Holdings.

He had a PhD in animal science and was previously a professor of Agribusiness and Resource Management at Massey University, where he spent 18 years in various roles including supervising the 9000 SU Riverside Farm in Wairarapa.

What wasn’t widely known, were his very humble beginnings in Northland. Parker was born in the small Northland farming settlement of Tutamoe. He was the second of five boys born to Tom and Dawn Parker.

Here the Parkers milked cows, supplying cream, and ran a mixed beef and sheep farm at the Tutamoe end of the Old Waoku Coach Rd. This road was initially intended to service balloted settler farms on the high plateau, and ran through to the Weka Weka Valley and to Taheke.

The land proved to be wet and inhospitable with the Parkers at the lower end being the only ones remaining on what is probably Northland’s highest farm as shown by 20cm of snow falling in 2011.

The boys started their education at the tiny Tutamoe Primary School, now closed, often walking the 4.8km home from school when their father couldn’t pick them up.

The household wasn’t connected to power until 1965 so any reading and homework would have to be done by lamplight and trips down the garden path to the long-drop toilet. The four older boys were sent to boarding school at Northland College in Kaikohe, where Parker excelled academically from the 3rd form through to the 7th – as it was then.

He was always in the top classes and in 1973 he was head boy and awarded dux, also gaining an A Bursary and propping the 1st XV scrum for two years.

Taking a year off after high school, he spent the time shearing, fencing and wood chopping in New Zealand and Australia. His father was a world champion chopper and after Parker’s mentoring, younger brother Nelson became a world champion as well winning the standing chop at the Sydney Easter Show.

In 1975, Parker enrolled at Massey University to complete a BAgSci degree with Honours. After taking another sabbatical of fencing and shearing he returned to Massey to complete a PhD in animal science and spent 18 years lecturing. He was also offered the chance to complete a Rhodes Scholarship but declined as he married his wife Viv in 1979.

Parker will be remembered for his vision, wisdom and experience as well as his kindness.

He is survived by Viv, three adult children and five grandchildren.

A mighty totara has fallen.

Supplied by Darcy Ruddell

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