Fonterra';s top table beckons farmer

TRUE BLUE: North Taranaki dairy farmer Blue Read is seeking election to Fonterra’s board of directors.
TRUE BLUE: North Taranaki dairy farmer Blue Read is seeking election to Fonterra’s board of directors.

Co-operative champion Blue Read is seeking a seat at Fonterra's top table.

The coastal North Taranaki dairy farmer has completed the company's candidate assessment panel process - which he instigated when he sat on the Fonterra Shareholders' Council.

Mr Read joined the council when Fonterra was established in 2001 and stepped down in 2010 after three years as chairman.

He was then one of the few New Zealand dairy politicians who actually milked his cows and takes great pride today in being a grass-roots farmer.

He and his wife Shirley milk more than 200 cows on their 90-hectare Wai-iti farm, but he doesn't expect to continue milking cows if he wins a seat.

A man who's passionate about the co-operative business model, Mr Read has chaired the New Zealand Co-operatives Association for the past year, designated the International Year of Co-operatives.

He said he would bring pragmatism to the role and could relate to farmers, even though directors did not represent farmers.

Rather, they ensured the company delivered profits to farmers. "I'm very clear about the difference," he said.

Mr Read said Fonterra was still facing residual concerns about the trading among farmers (TAF) scheme. Fonterra had to adapt to changing conditions and TAF was part of the solution it needed in a new business environment that included high rural debt.

"Co-operatives are like any other business - they are an evolutionary beast. The key ethos is that people who own the co-operative must use it and patronise it to get the benefits. Owners must also be prepared to fund it."

Successful candidates are expected to be announced next week and a crowded field looks likely to contest the three available seats.

Chairman-elect John Wilson is up for re-election, along with academic Nicola Shadbolt. A third vacancy exists after Colin Armer resigned within days of Mr Wilson's election as Sir Henry van der Heyden's successor.

Waikato University agri business professor Jacqueline Rowarth and Otago's Grant Cochrane are also standing and there are likely to be others.

Taranaki's David MacLeod was elected to the board last year.

Taranaki Daily News