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Dunedin resident receives SPCA's Silver Medal

Monday, 23 May, 2011

When Alan Diack was first appointed a MAF stock inspector at Kurow in 1956, he little imagined he would still be deeply involved in caring for animals more than half a century later.

The Dunedin resident's long and distinguished career was celebrated by SPCA New Zealand at its National Conference in Wellington earlier this month, when he was awarded the SPCA's Silver Medal for his outstanding contribution to animal welfare at a local level.

"I'll be 80 later this year and no way did it occur to me, back in 1956, that I was starting down a path that would take me to this point," says the recently-retired veteran.

Mr Diack spent 30 years with MAF, being appointed Senior Livestock Officer Christchurch responsible for Canterbury, the West Coast and the Chatham Islands in 1963. Nine years later, he became MAF's Regional Livestock Officer for Otago and Southland, commencing his long and fruitful association with SPCA Otago.

One outstanding memory he has from those years is of the massive 1980 Taieri Plain flood, during which he coordinated the rescue of approximately one thousand head of dairy cattle, an episode he subsequently recounted in his 2005 book, 'The Forgotten Flood'.

In 1986, Alan Diack retired from MAF and transferred to SPCA Otago, taking his inspector's warrant with him. In addition to his inspectorate role, he was active in developing SPCA staff management policies and the Society's plans for responding to a Civil Defence emergency.

Mr Diack also spent many years on SPCA Otago's Executive and its Staffing Subcommittee, as well as a total of five terms as the animal welfare representative on the University of Otago's Animal Ethics Committee.

"Otago SPCA has certainly expanded since I first became involved with it. We've built a new cattery and developed a new area for puppies. But, above all, we’ve put a lot more emphasis on education and on securing the support of the public," he says.

"Attitudes to animals have changed considerably since I first became involved with them professionally. There's now a widespread awareness that we have a responsibility to look after all animals, no matter where they are or in what the circumstances might be. The SPCA's commitment to education has done much to bring this change about this change," Mr Diack adds.

SPCA New Zealand's National President, Bob Kerridge, describes Alan Diack as providing an outstanding role model for others to follow.

"Alan has made a huge contribution to the welfare of animals over several decades. The SPCA has gained greatly from his involvement, both in the Otago region and beyond and we're privileged to now number him amongst the recipients of our Silver Medal," says Mr Kerridge.

When presented with his medal, Alan Diack also received a letter of congratulations from the Minister of Agriculture, the Hon David Carter.

In addition to his book on the Taieri flood, Mr Diack has published 'Two Shepherds Who Lost Their Sheep', an account of an ultimately ill-fated attempt he was involved in during his days with MAF, to introduce a new breed of sheep to New Zealand.