Fonterra shifts staff from Auckland to regions

Fonterra has begun shifting out top-level managers from Auckland head office to jobs in the regions as it tackles complaints of a disconnect with its farmers and moves more decision-making back to dairying heartlands.

The co-operative has made appointments to the Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Canterbury regions and is recruiting four more executives for Otago-Southland, Northland, Taranaki and Central Districts.

A large part of their jobs will be to work with farmer-shareholders to understand their needs and to be a communication bridge between farmers with growth plans and local councils, said Fonterra group director of co-operative affairs, Miles Hurrell, to whom they will report.

"Having those decisions made in Auckland is not doing those regions a service, in terms of the farmer base and communications," he said.

"The crux of it is to hear the voice of the farmer, to get back closer to our farmer base and into the community. We are removing a lot of decision-making and authority to those regions.

"We did have a connection with farmers, but you could argue that by the time it got to Auckland where historically, most of the decision-making is done, potentially the voice of the farmer wasn't heard."

The new regional heads will oversee a team of established Fonterra area managers. The appointments will not create another layer of management, Hurrell said.

Farmers will be able to pick up the phone and speak directly to the head office representatives, who will visit farms as part of their jobs, he said.

"It's about giving our farmers a senior voice in their region that understands that region and the community and translates that into supporting them (farmers)."

The Waikato region appointee is former Global Dairy Trade director Paul Grave, while Stu Gray, previously director of global ingredients New Zealand has started work in Canterbury.

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Bay of Plenty is to get former director of milk supply, Lisa Payne, by the end of the month.

The four other appointments will be made in the next three months, Hurrell said.

-NZ Farmer

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