Well-known former managing director of the Australian Agricultural Company, Trevor Schmidt, passed away in Sydney yesterday. He was 86.
Mr Schmidt had a long and productive career involved in the North Australian beef industry.
After finishing secondary school in 1945 at Shore North Sydney, he spent the next twelve months jackerooing on the family property, Alroy Downs, on the Barkly Tableland. He then spent several years on New Twin Hills, Clermont, Avon Downs near Camooweal and Nieve Downs outside Charleville before joining New Zealand Loan Company (Later Dalgety, now Landmark) in 1949 as a store stock salesman.
Two years later he was appointed manager of Avon Downs and married Alison Howell in 1952.
Mr Schmidt was appointed manager at AA Co’s Windy station Quirindi in 1955 and was one of the first to introduce broadacre farming on the Liverpool plains.
In 1961 he and his family moved to Goonoo Goonoo, Tamworth NSW. He was appointed general superintendent of AA Co in 1962 following the death of his father Dolf, who served in the same capacity for the previous two decades.
During 1974 Mr Schmidt approached JB Were in Melbourne regarding changing the domicile of AA Co from England to Australia. This occurred during the Whitlam era when foreign ownership of Australian companies was not politically popular. There was also a credit squeeze at the time and it was difficult for foreign domiciled companies to raise debt.
Colonial Mutual Life became the first institutional Australian shareholder of the AA Co, taking a 10pc stake, but in order to obtain an Australian listing significant obstacles had to be overcome.
AA Co was formed by an act of British Parliament in 1824, as a British Charter company, and in fact was the second oldest company in Australia, behind Bank of New South Wales.
To allow the company to list on the Australian stock exchange, the British Parliament had to create an act to allow the company’s transition to Australia, a move which was successfully accomplished.
On completion in 1974, Mr Schmidt became AA Co’s inaugural managing director.
He steered the company through a stage of rapid development through the 1960s and 70s.
His work in eradicating TB and Brucellosis on AA Co properties Alroy Downs and Rockhampton Downs prior to the introduction of the federally-funded Brucellosis and Tuberculosis Eradication Campaign (BTEC) largely formed the template for the eradication of these two diseases nationally.
Under his management, AA Co was one of the early users of road trains in the north, transporting fat cattle to the Wyndham meatworks from Argyle Downs in the Kimberley region of WA, and to Katherine meatworks from Alroy and Rockhampton Downs.
Away from AA Co duties, he was appointed a councillor to the Royal Sydney Show in 1963, and he subsequently became president 1988.
During his tenure as president of the RAS, the overall management structure of the organisation was fundamentally changed. Following an independent review, a management committee or board, under a chief executive was formed. This was a first for any major Australian Show society.
In the lead-up to the 2000 Sydney Olympic games, as president of the RAS it fell upon Mr Schmidt to help persuade a number of dissenting RAS councillors that a move from Moore Park the ancestral home of the RAS, to a new home at Homebush bay was in the best interests of the society. This move was achieved and Mr Schmidt, during his eight-year tenure as RAS president, oversaw the relocation.
As part of the change to Homebush the Horse Committee of the RAS recommended that the new Horse Events Arena be named in honour of Dolf and Trevor Schmidt and was subsequently named the Schmidt Arena.
Trevor also served the boards of Northern Meat Exporters, Hazelton Airlines, Primac, and sat as president of the Northern Territory Lessees association and the Santa Gertrudis Breeders Association.
He was also the last managing director of King Ranch Australia before the company’s US owners sold their Australian land assets.
He is survived by his three children, Alan, Simon and Annabel.
We managed Bowen Downs for the Schmidt Family and we have the greatest admiration for Trevor Schmidt in all aspects of property and personnel management. He was hard but fair, and extremely generous to us. He taught us so much which we will have forever. One of the very best!