Fonterra shareholders have delivered a damning assessment of their elected Shareholders Council.
Canterbury farmer Nicholls and Māori agribusiness leader Jamie Tuuta are squaring off in the second director election this year.
“It’s important that shareholders understand that not voting ‘yes’ for one of the candidates on the ballot is actually a vote for the board to make the appointment,” Nicholls told Dairy News.
“Our directors need the skills, capabilities and experience to understand the business and must have the character, values and courage to make decisions that are right for the business long-term.”
Nicholls says he’s standing because he cares deeply about the co-op, its future and its performance.
“Family values are important to me and are the foundation on which we have built our own business. I believe strongly in always having the courage to be honest and to do what is right. I have the drive, strength and boardroom experience to make a real difference.
“We can transform Fonterra into a business that we are all proud of.”
Voting is underway for the second director election after the first failed to elect three candidates. Only two of the five candidates — Leonie Guiney and Peter McBride — got over 50% ‘yes’ votes from farmer shareholders.
Fonterra’s shareholders council will decide whether to run another election, but only allowing the three unsuccessful candidates to take part.
Former Fonterra director Ashley Waugh declined to stand again, leaving Nicholls and Tuuta to fight for the third vacancy.
The council says to be successful a candidate must obtain at least 50% support from shareholders who vote. If both candidates get more than 50% support then the candidate with the highest support will be elected. If no candidate gets more than 50% support there will not be a third election; Fonterra’s board may exercise its constitutional power to make a temporary appointment until the 2019 annual meeting but they cannot appoint an unsuccessful candidate.
Voting started last week and runs until December 20; results will be announced later that day.
Nicholls believes Fonterra has the potential to be the most amazing business but needs more disciplined decisionmaking and execution.
“We have to stop letting politics and personalities dominate,” he says. “We must continue to push for better clarity around our purpose and strategy.
“This is an intergenerational business and we should be adopting a long-term vision and strategy, not one that changes every time there is a change in leadership.
“We produce a perishable product; our fortunes as dairy farmers are tied to the success of our co-operative in processing and marketing our milk to the world.
“We shouldn’t entrust that success to those who are there just to further their own careers or aspirations; we need directors who have our interests at heart.”
Nicholls is urging farmers to vote.
“This election is between three candidates: two of us appear on the ballot paper while the third is the unknown candidate that the Fonterra board will appoint if we are not successful. It’s important that shareholders understand that not voting ‘yes’ for one of the candidates on the ballot is actually a vote for the board to make the appointment.”