Wednesday, 13 May 2020 09:32

Fonterra council review report due in August

Written by  Sudesh Kissun
James Buwalda. James Buwalda.

A final report into the review of the Fonterra Shareholders Council will be handed to farmers by the end of August.

The steering group formed to review the council and its core functions started surveying Fonterra farmers and sharemilkers last week on “critical issues”. It is also seeking the views of Fonterra’s board and the council. 

In an email to farmers this month, the steering group outlined its timetable.

Following a two-week survey, the group will analyse critical issues and identify options. In early June it will consult shareholders and sharemilkers on its core findings before identifying preferred options.

Any changes to the co-op’s constitution and council by-laws will be voted on by shareholders at its annual general meeting in November.

The steering group chaired by former public service executive James Buwalda told farmers it’s working towards a final report by the end of August, but is wary of COVID-19.

“This is slightly later than originally envisaged by the terms of reference, but still in good time for any recommendations requiring shareholder approval to be voted on at this year’s annual meeting,” the steering group says.

“There is some risk the timeline might be affected further by the COVID-19 environment.”

It says the review process aims to encourage and support farmer participation and feedback. 

“It is also committed to transparency, including by publishing feedback obtained through consultations. 

“Farmer feedback will be sought at two stages and we encourage you to have your say.”

The future of the council featured at last year’s annual meeting: two motions filed by disgruntled shareholders seeking independent review of the council failed to reach the 50.1% threshold.

Southland farmer Tony Paterson, whose motion received 44% support, is keeping a close eye on the review process.

Paterson told Dairy News that he didn’t apply to serve on the steering committee.

“I didn’t apply for a position as we didn’t think the process outlined by council would deliver anywhere near the independent thinking and rational decisions that we where after,” he says.

“We are very interested to see how their process unfolds and whether they can deliver on their transparent process.”

A group of Waikato farmers, whose motion garnered only 22% support at last year’s annual meeting, want the council scrapped.

They are urging shareholders to make their views known to the steering group.

Fonterra Shareholders Council chairman James Barron says it’s important for all shareholders to participate in the review process.

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