Ian Elliott was a well known South Waikato diary farmer and charity worker (file photo).
A highly respected Waikato farmer died six days after arriving back in New Zealand after being diagnosed with cancer while on a family holiday in the Netherlands.
South Waikato farmer and charity worker Ian Elliott, 72, died suddenly in Waikato Hospital on Tuesday.
Elliot was the chairman of Trinity Lands which has 21 dairy farms in the Waikato as well as numerous Kiwifruit orchards and forestry blocks.
He was also the chair of global Christian charity Prison Fellowship International, chair of the South Waikato Investment Fund Trust (SWIFT), and managed 10 farms outside of Trinity Lands.
Ian Elliott died of cancer at Waikato Hospital on Tuesday, just hours after arriving back in New Zealand.
Daughter Sarah said there was limited warning.
“He was being treated for something else but the symptoms he was showing never would have suggested how serious it was so there is no one to blame.
“What I am pleased about is he was still doing stuff before he went to the Netherlands,” she said.
Sarah and Elliott’s other daughters Marianne and Theresa said their father touched many lives.
“A strong part of who Dad was was his enormous passion for people,” Marianne said.
“He especially took pride and passion in young people who came and worked for him, whether on the [family farm in Tokoroa] or the trust farms, and seeing them succeed or watching them go on to succeed.”
Sarah added that “he knew them all by name and what they had achieved and stayed interested long after they stopped working for him”.
“He had an ability to see the good in everyone always,” she said.
“He believed people needed to be believed in and he could see the potential in everyone and what they could bring to a board table, farm or community. We were very blessed to have had him as our father.”
Elliott spent the first nine years of his life in Te Aroha where he was born into a farming family.
He then moved to Nigeria for four years with his parents, younger brother Bruce and younger sisters Delwynne and Christine, where they were involved in Christian missionary work.
After he came home early from Nigeria he stayed with his uncle and aunt on the original Lichfield Lands farm and was part of the land’s early conversion from sheep and beef to dairy.
Christian charitable work became a lifelong passion.
It led to him being appointed chair of the Prison Fellowship International, travelling to prisons throughout the world.
There he interacted with prisoners and their families shunned by society.
The role also saw him invited to several American presidential prayer breakfasts with the likes of Donald Trump, Barack Obama, George Bush, and Bill Clinton.
His wife Margaret said her husband’s faith was “strong and clear” but “he respected and appreciated people who didn’t have the same beliefs as him”.
“We all remember him encouraging us at times when something wasn’t going well. He said ‘you have to learn it is a long game and there are times when things go well and times when they don’t go so well but you can’t worry about the times when they are not going so well, you learn from them’,” she said.
His grandchildren Caleb, Olivia, Max, Emeliann, and Oscar described him as someone who “knew how to have fun”.
Zespri chairman Peter McBride, who worked closely with Elliott, said he was a natural leader.
“He committed most of his life to charitable work and was highly respected.
“He was also an incredible businessman and understood that while success was important it is people that make it happen,” he said.
South Waikato District councillor and farmer Gray Baldwin said the farming community was in shock.
“He was a thoroughly decent family man as well as an astute businessman.
“It is an incredible shock to all of us. A giant Kauri has fallen in the forest,” he said.
Elliott will be farewelled at the South Waikato Sport and Events Centre in Mossop Rd, Tokoroa on Tuesday, January 15 at 1pm followed by burial at the Domain Road Cemetery in Putaruru.