New dairy chairman wants unity
Fonterra chairman-elect John Wilson says ensuring there is the smoothest of board leadership transitions and uniting the farmer-owned co-operative after the rigours of the internal TAF debate are his priorities.
The Waikato farmer-elected director will take the reins of New Zealand's biggest company in December from Sir Henry van der Heyden, who steps down after 10 years in the job.
Wilson, 47, will take his seat at the top of the table just after Fonterra is scheduled to have introduced share trading among farmers, or TAF, as it has come to be better known after more than two years of debate.
He said his first standout responsibilities would be achieving a "really, really smooth transition" between himself and van der Heyden, and getting TAF bedded in and moving forward.
He agreed there was work to do in reuniting the $20 billion annual revenue co-operative after deep divisions in the farmer-shareholder base in the lead-up to last month's 66 per cent farmer vote in favour of the scheme.
Vigorous debate was the co- operative way, he said. "These debates are a fundamental part of who we are, as is uniting after and moving forward."
Wilson's election was welcomed by farmer watchdog the Fonterra Shareholders Council, and Federated Farmers.
However, the federation's dairy chairman, Willy Leferink, said Wilson would have some work to do to build a relationship with farmers.
Leferink declined to comment on whether Fonterra farmers were fans of Wilson, but said it was "up to John Wilson to be liked".
"It's for him to build that relationship. To be fair, unfortunately, we didn't have a deputy chairman so he didn't have a chance to build a relationship with us."
Leferink said he had always believed it was a "weakness" of the company that it did not have a deputy chairman.
In a later statement, Leferink called on Wilson to create a deputy position.
Wilson, who has been on the Fonterra board nine years, said he had to earn the right to have that relationship with farmers.
"I've been so fortunate for so many years to have worked representing farmers in the shareholder council, or being a director of Fonterra and the responsibilities which come with that . . . as a result I have so many strong relationships right across the shareholder base."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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