Trio of candidates debate the basic Fonterra issues

A lively campaign seems likely in the single Taranaki ward of the Fonterra Shareholders' Council where an election is being held.

Current councillor Shona Glentworth, of Riverlea, says an election is healthy and shows that shareholders are interested in the issues. She is being challenged by Pihama's Rob Poole, and John Murphy, of Otakeho.

The three candidates have held one meeting and expect to continue their campaigns by phone.

Poole said there was some discontent among shareholders about the decision of retiring chairman Sir Henry van der Heyden to remain on the board. Some shareholders were nervous about Trading Among Farmers (Taf) and its effect on the co-operative.

He thought the extra scrutiny Fonterra would be subject to under Taf would be good for the co- operative and for farmers.

"The bigger and more diverse the scrutiny, the better off we will be."

He and Glentworth both expect Taf will mean farmers will receive a broader range of analysis of the co- operative's performance.

Glentworth said that after two terms on the council, she was keen to retain her seat to see the Taf process concluded.

Murphy said Taf was complicated, but he accepted that the co-operative had voted to support it.

The 31-year-old Otakeho farmer began his farming career as a variable order sharemilker, and bought his first farm in partnership with his parents when he was 20. He has since created a dairy farm by purchasing three runoffs and building a cowshed.

Murphy said he would challenge the council to ensure that it represented shareholders' views rather than acting as a second board of directors.

He wants the council to become a true watchdog that continually questions the performance of the board. He was disgusted with the $8 million bonus paid to former chief executive Andrew Ferrier who, he said, in his last year of service took Fonterra from the top milk processor in the country in terms of payout to fourth.

He was also disturbed by what he said was a 10 per cent increase in Fonterra's wage bill, for which the shareholders' council had awarded a pass mark.

Poole, 48, supports Taf and believes it will present Fonterra with both new opportunities and risk, requiring strong representation by the council.

He said the council had to ensure the board's future investments created wealth for Fonterra, brought farmers long-term financial benefits to and kept them in control of their destiny.

Fonterra's governance development programme had helped him understand the complexities and challenges of governance, Fonterra's global strategy, and its key performance indicators and benchmarks.

Poole is also involved with the Massey, Lincoln and Otago universities' joint Food and Agribusiness Marketing Experience programme, and is a director of New Zealand Farming Systems Uruguay.

Glentworth has been a shareholder councillor for five years, serving on the co-operative development and performance committees and the joint board/council governance and representation review working group.

She owns and operates Taranaki management consulting and training company Implement and Associates, chairs South Taranaki's Cinema 2 Trust, previously chaired the Taranaki Chamber of Commerce, and was a finalist in the inaugural New Zealand Dairy Woman of the Year contest this year.

Glentworth says she has unique insight into the functioning of a co- operative, having been involved as a sharemilker, shareholder, employee as well as a shareholder councillor.

Voting by internet, fax, or post closes on December 15.

Taranaki Daily News