Castleisland Scientist Appointed to New Zealand Government Post

I don’t miss this: Scientist Dr. John Roche pictured on another soft Irish day during a recent visit home in Castleisland from his adopted New Zealand where he has just been appointed as government scientific advisor on a broad sweep of agricultural matters. ©Photograph: John Reidy
On the Land: Scientist Dr. John Roche pictured during a recent visit to the home farm in Firie, Castleisland from his adopted New Zealand. ©Photograph: John Reidy

As Castleisland native, Dr. John Roche was catching up with family and friends during a recent visit home, things were moving with great pace in his adopted home in New Zealand.

And it was while he was at home that he got an email with a job offer he couldn’t refuse. The offer came directly from the New Zealand government and from the Ministry for Primary Industries with which he will work for four days each week from early next month.

Government Delighted

Announcing the appointment, the Policy and Trade Branch of the Ministry for Primary Industries expressed its delight that Dr. Roche had been appointed to its ranks:

I am delighted to announce that we have appointed Dr John Roche as the new Departmental Science Adviser (DSA) for the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).  John will be with us four days a week commencing 11 June 2018.

“John has a very distinguished record as a scientist and researcher in industry and academia. He has a PhD in ruminant nutrition from the National University of Ireland and has most recently worked as a principal scientist at DairyNZ, and adjunct professor in animal science at Lincoln University.

Strategic Science Advice

“John will be providing strategic science advice across MPI as well as providing an important connection into the domestic and international science communities, the broader primary sector, and local and central government.

“We are looking forward to having John on board and working with him over the next three years shaping New Zealand’s primary sectors,” the statement concluded.

No Shot in the Dark

John’s appointment was no shot in the dark by the NZ government. They had his credentials as he worked extensively in Australia and New Zealand previously.

In fact, this September, he’ll be out of Ireland as long as he’s been living here. He flew to Australia in 1995 and spent five years working with the Department of Agriculture there.

His first taste of New Zealand came in 2000 when he went there to join the Dairy Research Corporation. After spending six years in that post, John was offered an associate professorship at the University of Tasmania.

At around this time he set up his own consultancy business Down to Earth Advice Ltd. and its influence has reached across many borders and as far away as parts of South America.

A Nice Change

Two years in Tasmania and the always clued in John saw that things were happening in New Zealand that he liked and he and his wife decided to go back.

I ventured that it was a nice change for an Irishman to be invited to Tasmania rather than being sent to the formerly named Van Diemen’s Land.

“My great grandfather went out there in the 1870s – voluntarily,” he hastened to add – and it took him weeks to get there. Now we have all the comforts of home as we travel – and the world is a much smaller place these days.

A past pupil of three of Castleisland’s schools: Presentation Convent Primary; The Boys’ National School and St. Patrick’s Boys’ Secondary School,  UCD followed and a Masters Degree from Moorepark set him on his current career path.

Weeks of Heavy Rain

The day we met at the home of his parents, Johnnie and Sheila in Firie, we were in the middle of a week and a half of heavy rain. The farming fodder crisis was the headline grabber on all the news bulletins and the weather forecast held no promise.

“Irish people are the best in the world for taking life as they find it and having the craic. There’s no other country in the world like it from that perspective. But I couldn’t put up with the long winters here and I certainly don’t miss this,” said John as he gestured to the window and the driving rain beating against it.

Home Farm Influence

Did growing up on a farm influence his path in life?

“Oh of course it did,” he answered without hesitation. “I remember I was set to go to Chicago to play football with a team over there. If I did I would have missed out on Moorepark. My father guided me away from the football and back towards education and the greater prospects of a career.

A Font of Knowledge

“In fairness to him he was absolutely right. Moorepark is a font of knowledge for young Irish farmers since it was set up in 1959 and I believe it’s even better today.

“I’m looking forward to the new challenges ahead in New Zealand as the job has a very broad scope. I get paid to act like a child really  – be curious and ask questions,” said Dr..Roche in his ‘Down to Earth’ assessment of his important new role in his adopted home.


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