Study Fonterra's information pack, then have your say

JAMES HOUGHTON
Last updated 08:55 05/06/2012

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The packs are now out for Fonterra's Trading Among Farmers (TAF) – perhaps a little earlier than the co-operative would have liked.

I encourage everyone to read through the information thoroughly and make sure they understand all the implications of a yes or a no.

The vote is a simple majority rules vote. Given it has become a very emotive issue for many people, I would say every vote, either way, will count.

People who have read my column over the past few weeks will know I support TAF because I see it as a way to secure Fonterra's future. I thought it was a bit ironic that days after I talked about the possibility of a Kiwi Jed Clampett striking oil in the paddock, there was an announcement of plans for a massive coal gas operation in Taranaki. This may not have quite the same effect as a big oil find but shows it could happen.

However, I know there are people who have a very different view on TAF, which I respect. What I ask every Fonterra shareholder and supplier to do is sit down with the information and make sure they understand the facts.

Then, and only then, they need to make sure they have their say.

Hamilton ratepayers will not be happy if their council is handed a $600,000 fine after pleading guilty to a charge following last year's sewage spill from the Pukete wastewater treatment plant.

However, I hope the council is treated the same way any dairy farmer would be if they allowed effluent to get into a waterway.

This is an interesting case, because despite a number of treatment plants around the country having similar spills on a fairly regular basis, regional councils are usually shy about following through and prosecuting a city or district authority.

In the Manawatu catchment, Horizons has shied away from taking various councils to court over repeated sewage spills into waterways. This has struck dairy farmers as grossly unfair for a long time, so I congratulate Waikato Regional Council for forcing Hamilton City Council to admit its guilt in allowing 90,000 litres of sewage sludge to enter the river. We also appreciate whenever anyone pleads guilty, as this reduces the cost of the prosecution.

However, with Hamilton council still trying to downplay the size of the spill, I hope the admission is followed up with something more than a slap on the hand.

Hopefully, Waikato Regional Council's action will encourage other regional councils to hold more urban councils to account, thereby encouraging them to fix up their faulty sewerage schemes.

Next week is the 2012 New Zealand National Agricultural Fieldays. This year Federated Farmers has partnered with rural insurers FMG to make sure we have a presence at New Zealand's biggest agricultural event.

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This means there will be a member of the federation's Waikato executive on hand on the Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday to answer queries you may have on membership or any other concerns. There may be members from other nearby provinces on hand for the other days. I hope to see you there.

James Houghton is Federated Farmers' Waikato provincial president.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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