Brewing past no barrier to farm task

Brad ThompsonThe West Australian
Peter Nolin.
Camera IconPeter Nolin. Credit: Sharon Smith/The West Australian

WAFarmers has turned to a former brewer with no background in agriculture to guide the organisation through the biggest shake-up in its 100-year history.

Gage Roads Brewing Company founder Peter Nolin is taking a glass-half-full approach to the challenge after starting work as chief executive yesterday.

"Agriculture delivers $7.5 billion to the WA economy each year and is the backbone of regional WA - meaning it deserves a much greater standing within the community," Mr Nolin said.

"As the largest representative body for WA agriculture, WAFarmers intends to ensure that members' and industry's needs are understood and addressed."

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Mr Nolin is the third person to occupy the chief executive's chair in the past three months after Andy McMillan stood down and the man earmarked to replace him, Trevor Lovell, quit to become chief executive at Aged and Community Services WA.

WAFarmers president Dale Park denied the organisation had taken a gamble by appointing Mr Nolin, who knows a bit about barley from his brewing days but very little about farming.

"He is a quick learner with the organisational skills and drive to make WAFarmers a bigger and better organisation, and understands the financial strain we are under," Mr Park said.

WAFarmers is preparing for a new era after recognising that its member-fee funding model is unsustainable in the long-term.

It is looking for new sources of income and staking its future on the findings of a strategic review by Jo Woodfield, a partner at intellectual property firm Wrays.

Mr Nolin followed his heart to Fremantle from the US and co-founded Gage Roads in 2002. He quit as managing director in 2007, less than a year after leading the micro-brewer's $4 million float. He was chief executive of the Fremantle Chamber of Commerce from 2008 until 2011 and also ran a consultancy firm.

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