The end of an era

Brent Hananeia, manager of our Dunedin laboratory, worked his last day on Thursday 28 September, 2023. Brent has left quite a footprint throughout our network, and it’s sadly time to bid him farewell after 45 years in the lab.

Brent started his career at the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF) in 1978 at their Invermay Animal Health laboratory. He was part of their Chemistry team and was also involved in various research projects that were run out of the facility.

The economic environment through the 80’s was rocky and with Invermay being the smallest of the MAF labs at the time, they often found themselves on the chopping block when restructures were being considered. Uncomfortable with this, Brent and the team worked hard to diversify and streamline their processes, to ensure that their laboratory was profitable and indispensable. A key to this was Brent’s insight that they could differentiate themselves by offering a much faster turnaround time than was generally available from other laboratories – they began offering tests with a next-day turnaround time, compared with the week or two that customers could get elsewhere.

In 1998, a shake-up at MAF resulted in the idea being floated that the Invermay laboratory would be pared right back to just operating as a TB testing lab. Unhappy with this, Brent rallied around the team to gauge interest in the potential for them to stand up their own laboratory. With the laboratory team on board and willing to invest as shareholders, the new entity was formed. Through some clever negotiations, MAF (AgriQuality by that point) asked to also invest as minority shareholders in the new entity. As a result, a new privately owned laboratory called Labnet Invermay was established, with Brent at the helm.

After three years of continuing to innovate with new offerings to meet their customer’s needs, Brent was approached by Gribbles Veterinary (an Australian owned laboratory company, at the time) who were looking to enter the New Zealand market by acquiring local laboratories. Brent’s team decided to go ahead with the purchase. Gribbles went on to acquire the Christchurch, Hamilton, Auckland, and Palmerston North AgriQuality laboratories and the current era of Gribbles began.

In recent years, Brent has worked to make sure that we remained at the forefront of animal health testing in New Zealand, whilst expanding our service into new areas. He revolutionised our trace element service using ICPMS, established a honey testing service, to name just a few ways that Brent (and his team) have pushed the company forward on behalf of our customers.

Throughout his career, Brent has kept an eye open to new opportunities and hasn’t been afraid to experiment, and sometimes fail, along the way. He has remained close to his customers, always striving to understand their requirements to provide services that they value. Throughout it all, Brent has approached the ups and downs with a smile on his face and a dad-joke at the ready. He is highly regarded within the scientific community in New Zealand and his contribution to the animal health landscape in New Zealand cannot be over-stated. To top it all, he’s been a compassionate boss who is never hesitant to roll up his sleeves and get stuck in when required, a generous colleague with a wealth of experience and incredible depth of knowledge, and an all-round great human being.

The laboratory management role in Dunedin has been taken over by Denise Carian-Smith.  Denise has been working in the Dunedin laboratory for over 20 years, both in animal health and analytical food testing.  She has been the Quality and Technical Manager for some years and is now looking forward to the challenges managing the laboratory will bring.

We wish both Brent and Denise every success with their new adventures.