Pictured above: Sir Palle Petersen and Denmark’s ambassador to Australia and New Zealand Pernille Kardel.
Charged with responsibility for leading PGG Wrightson’s wool exports, Sir Palle Petersen has ideal credentials for the role.
Growing up in Denmark, on leaving school Palle joined Danish wool trading company Bloch & Behrens, as he explains.
“After four years in Germany in their small Munich office, Bloch & Behrens sent me to New Zealand on what turned out to be a one-way ticket. That was in 1988. I married Rachel in 1991 and have been here ever since,” he says.
Several changes have taken place in the meantime.
“When faced with the imminent closure of the company in the late 1990s my initial brief was to wind up the business, though I had other ideas. I was lucky to be given the opportunity to pick up what was left of Bloch & Behrens NZ, in partnership with well-known Ashburton wool merchants the Woodham family. My old boss said it was a waste of time, and don’t bother with it. However, I took great pleasure in working hard to re-establish the relationships we had with customers throughout the world, turn the company around, and prove a few people wrong.
“In 2008 we were sold to PGG Wrightson and became the export arm of this company’s wool brokering division. This is an excellent fit for all parties, giving us the opportunity to bring growers closer to our international customers and vice versa,” he says.
Managing Bloch & Behrens NZ encompasses several challenges.
“Making a profit, managing risk and balancing the need to pay growers the best return we can, while also achieving the best possible market price, certainly makes life interesting.
“On the way through there have been plenty of highlights. Introducing the Wool Integrity brand is definitely one, taking us beyond being simply a commodity trader.
“Establishing ourselves with some niche type businesses has also been rewarding. Creating a market for Certified Organic New Zealand crossbred wool is part of that. Having built a network of loyal organic growers, and establishing a close partnership with one of our key customers, we are now paying these growers around double the price for their organic crossbred wool that conventional growers earn. These growers are passionate about the impact their farming has on their land and their families. Organic farming is no easy road: we are hugely proud to support such committed farmers,” he says.
Outside work Palle has been Denmark’s Christchurch-based Honorary Consul since 2012, a role that involves assisting any Danish citizens in the South Island who require help.
“I’ve organised repatriation of the bodies of Danish people who have died here, though mostly it involves replacing lost passports or minor translations. We did have one young Dane hunting on the West Coast who shot a blue duck and ended up in court. He shot the duck when it landed on a lake, and a couple of DOC officers were passing while he was fishing it out. He didn’t realise he had done anything wrong and they didn’t say anything at the time, though a few weeks later he received a message asking him to call in at the DOC Wanaka office. When he turned up, he was summoned to court. It cost him $10,000, which was an expensive mistake,” he says.
Palle’s service to Denmark was recently recognised with the Ridder of Dannebrog knighthood, which dates back to 1671 and was awarded in ceremony by Denmark’s ambassador to Australia and New Zealand Pernille Kardel.
Palle and Rachel have three adult daughters, Emma, Sophie and Pia (pictured below), and live in an historic homestead on a Price’s Valley lifestyle property, near Little River on Banks Peninsula.
A Northland couple on a farm that has been in the family since the early 1870s have found an innovative new use for the wool grown by their Romney flock.
Sarah Hewlett is the sixth generation of her family on 230 hectare Hewlett Point Farm, on the southern shore of Whangarei Harbour at Mata. As she explains, the acoustic properties of wool are not well recognised, which she and husband Chris Coffey aim to change.
“I used to design clothing and have been playing around for a few years using felt. We came across a felting machine in Auckland and started thinking about wool for acoustic insulation.
“Research showed us that acoustic effectiveness varies according to different factors such as density and design. Wool can be as effective as synthetic materials at absorbing sound, though without the micro-plastics, and with all the positive qualities of wool such as absorption of volatile organic compounds and fire resistance,” she says.
They now have a product: aesthetically attractive, natural, sustainable, zero-waste sound absorbing panels, suitable for use in homes, offices, restaurants, hotels and buildings including libraries and museums. Their next step is to commercialise it.
“We have worked with Marshall Day, an Auckland acoustic consultancy, as well as AUT, though want to buy our own machinery as at the moment we need to go to Auckland for that, which is not so easy from the farm. Once we have a machine we can do a whole lot more, and want to maximise the absorbency of the product.
“We also need to achieve certification from BRANZ to enable what we are making to be used in commercial buildings. That is expensive, though hinges around fire resistance, which is a natural quality of wool, of course,” she says.
In the meantime they entered ‘The Pick,’ a Northland business innovation competition, winning the rural section.
PGG Wrightson Far North wool representative Lance Paganini has a long association with Hewlett Point Farm, providing Sarah and Chris with guidance around product development for their wool acoustic insulation products, and making sure the rest of their wool gives them the best possible return.
Hewlett Point Farm runs 500 Romney ewes, currently crossing them with Poll Dorset rams for lambing, although Sarah and Chris’s nine year old son Jasper is experimenting with the Beltex breed. They also have 50 breeding cows and buy in weaners to fatten approximately 100 beef cattle each year, adhering to a regenerative farm system across all their land use, with natural fertilisers and chemical free products.
Pictured below L-R: PGG Wrightson Far North wool representative Lance Paganini, Chris, Sarah and family.
Pictured above: PGW Wool Product＆ Innovation Manager, Jason Everson and National Shearing Circuit chair, Warren White.
PGG Wrightson recently renewed its sponsorship of the National Shearing Circuit for the next three years.
Pitting the top shearers against each other based on versatility, the circuit is second only to the Golden Shears in terms competitive shearing prestige.
Shearers compete for points over five rounds, starting in Alexandra in October with the fine wool section; moving to full wool hoggets in Waimate; Corriedales in Christchurch in November; lambs in Rangitikei on Waitangi Day; and concluding in Pahiatua later in February with second shears. Based on points earned through those five rounds, the circuit final is fought out in Masterton by the top 12 shearers on the eve of the Golden Shears.
National Shearing Circuit chair Warren White says it is immensely satisfying to have the event under way again after last year’s covid disruption.
“PGG Wrightson has been on board as a sponsor for 18 years now. We are delighted to extend what has been an excellent and enduring relationship. As a sponsor they have been fully committed to helping keep the circuit afloat, particularly under the challenging circumstances we faced last year. This year we are back in force, with what promises to be a high quality showcase of the country’s top talent on the boards, and an outstanding test of the skills and versatility of some of New Zealand’s most accomplished shearers,” he says.
Established in 1973 the circuit is approaching its fiftieth anniversary. Continuing its relationship with the event that began in 2003, under the current arrangement PGG Wrightson is co-sponsoring with animal health product manufacturer Nexan, meaning the event will be titled the PGG Wrightson Vetmed National Shearing Circuit.
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