Thursday, 04 October 2018 11:34

Let the games begin — Editorial

Written by 
Adding interest to this year’s vote are bids by former director Leonie Guiney. Adding interest to this year’s vote are bids by former director Leonie Guiney.

OPINION: Fonterra's upcoming director elections will be an interesting contest with a potential shake-up on the cards, which its board surely needs.

Currently, the dairy co-op is copping robust criticism of its performance and future strategy. 

Its performance has been under fire from all quarters including from Government ministers.

The farmer-owned cooperative has up to 11 directors. Seven must be shareholders with dairy farming interests, while four are independent and appointed by the board. Former chairman John Wilson and long-servicing director Nicola Shadbolt are not standing again, so two of the three seats up for contention this year are vacant. 

Five candidates have put up their hands for the three vacancies: the incumbent director Ashley Waugh, Zespri chair Peter McBride and Ministry for Māori Development chief executive and Māori Television chairman Jamie Tuuta, who all came through Fonterra’s ‘independent’ nomination system.

Adding interest to this year’s vote are bids by former director Leonie Guiney – who was dumped from the board last when she failed to make it through this same nomination process – and multi property-owning Canterbury dairy farmer John Nicholls. Both have come to the contest via the ‘self-nominating’ process. 

The two chose not to take part in Fonterra’s ‘independent nomination process’ in which candidates are nominated by the board after being recommended by an independent selection panel. Instead they relied on getting the signatures of 35 farmer shareholders to support their nominations.

Guiney has recently settled a legal wrangle with the Fonterra board after suing it for defamation, when it took court action earlier this year gagging her from speaking about co-op business.

All the candidates standing need to restore farmer and public confidence in Fonterra. A good start would be an end to the ridiculous board-controlled ‘independent’ nomination process. While few would dispute the quality of all the candidates who have come through this time, the perception of this process is that the board only allows the candidates it wants to run for election.

Meantime, the ‘self-nomination’ process has also produced two good candidates, showing that would-be directors of quality can be found without the need for Fonterra to have to artificially ‘manufacture’ them. Full and proper democracy should be the hallmark and standard of any farmer co-operative.


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