New director passionate about co-ops

Blue Read has been voted on to Fonterra's board of directors.
Blue Read has been voted on to Fonterra's board of directors.

When Taranaki's Blue Read learned farmers had chosen him as a Fonterra director, the Taranaki Daily News was on the spot.

The dairy giant advised the 11 candidates and the New Zealand Stock Exchange of the election result yesterday morning ahead of its annual meeting in Hamilton.

After milking his 210 cows on his 90-hectare North Taranaki farm, Mr Read and wife Shirley headed to Hamilton. It was at Piopio they learned the result, via a call to his mobile, as they stopped for a coffee.

"I've just been elected," the former Fonterra Shareholders' Council chairman told his wife and a Daily News reporter who had also stopped for a coffee.

Chairman-elect John Wilson and Nicola Shadbolt were re-elected. Chairman Sir Henry van der Heyden, who has led Fonterra for 10 years, has stood down.

Mr Read told 350 people at the annual meeting he was glad he had chosen his suit over his gumboots and singlet.

He was looking forward to being a director of a united, determined and globally focused co-operative.

"That people voted for me is a reflection of what farmers want from their co-op - returns, a sense of belonging and that the co-op's working for them," he told the Taranaki Daily News in Piopio. "Farmers can relate to me; it's not about being big or small.

"The company has a history I'm proud of. It's dealt with big issues in the past and there'll be big ones in the future."

Describing himself as pragmatic, he said he had a strong sense of needing to do what was right. "Sometimes it's controversial, so communication is important." Before making decisions, he liked to think deeply and he loved debating. "That absolutely spins my wheels."

He said he was looking forward to working with Mr Wilson, also a former Fonterra Shareholders' Council chairman.

A passionate advocate of the co-operative philosophy, he has just been re-elected president of Co-operative Business New Zealand.

Mr Read's success gives Taranaki two directors at the Fonterra table. Taranaki Regional Council chairman and Parininihi ki Waitotara and Port Taranaki director David MacLeod, of Hawera, became a director last year.

Mr MacLeod said Mr Read had a strong reputation for standing up for what he believed in and was a staunch believer in co-operatives.

"A lot of shareholders will be pleased he's [on the board] to protect their co-operative interests."

Pihama dairy farmer Rob Poole was elected to the Egmont Plains ward of the Fonterra Shareholders' Council, replacing incumbent and New Zealand Dairy Woman of the Year finalist Shona Glentworth. John Murphy, of Otakeho, was the third candidate.

Taranaki Daily News