Colin Harvey: The ultimate entrepreneur

By Glenys Christian

In Community4 Minutes
Colin Harvey

Ancare founder, Colin Harvey, was remembered as the “ultimate entrepreneur” at his funeral service in Auckland in early February. The 76-year-old died while body surfing at Lang’s Beach in lower Northland.

He was born on a Taranaki dairy farm then completed an agricultural science degree at Massey. He started work as a sales rep for Pfizer in Auckland, where his friends from university, now vets, quickly became his customers. The company was later taken over by Coopers-Wellcome.

Colin completed a Bachelor of Commerce degree from Auckland University and in 1985 with patents expiring for some animal health products saw the opportunity to set up Ancare with fellow worker and accountant, David Johnson. The company was to grow from its start in small offices in the suburb of Glenfield to make sales into Australia, Ireland, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the Middle East.

Simon Wright, a former vet and friend, says Colin was thought of highly.

“He was an icon in vet professionals’ eyes.”

Later they belonged to the same book club in Auckland where he says members were “overwhelmed by his outpouring of enthusiasm and ideas”. In one instance he chose a book on the Middle Eastern political situation to be read, then invited his youngest son’s father-in-law, a professor of political science at Cambridge University, to join their later discussion by Zoom.

“He seized the day, didn’t he?”

In 1988 he founded the Animal Remedy and Plant Protectant Association which he chaired, and was involved in the formation of the new Hazardous Substances Act and the Agricultural Compounds and Veterinary Medicines Act.

The trading assets of Ancare were sold to Merial in 2007 and in the following year Colin was made an Officer of NZ Order of Merit. In 2014 Merial acquired the remaining research and development assets of Ancare which he had operated as a separate development company.

As well as farming the 11,000-hectare Lake McKay Station in Wanaka he chaired Zelam, a Taranaki research and development company, before it was sold to Swiss company, Lonza. He was involved in the founding then chaired Country TV as well as the Hobbiton theme set in the Waikato.

Russell Alexander, Hobbiton’s chief executive, told the funeral service how Colin had cut scrub on his father’s farm in the 1960s. When approached about the use of farmland by director, Peter Jackson’s film company, he said Colin was the perfect person to ask for advice as staff numbers were boosted by 250 in five years. He became chairman in 2011, a role which was to have changed hands every year, but he remained in it.

“He was the ultimate entrepreneur,” he said.

“He was always coming up with new ideas.”

He was also chair of Mastaplex, ran consultancy ANIDEA and was a council member of Massey University. His latest venture was another animal health innovation he was exploring with the Otago Innovation project team at Otago University.

He is survived by his wife Mary, and children Brett, Damian, Nicky and Gerard.