Friday, April 19, 2024

BLNZ catches flak for mooting board fee hike

Neal Wallace
Groundswell slams timing of director remuneration remit.
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Higher remuneration is needed to attract more Beef + Lamb New Zealand director candidates, said board chair Kate Acland.

A remit to increase the director fees pool by $73,500 will be considered at the BLNZ annual meeting in Nelson on March 19, but it is proving contentious, Acland said.

Her phone has been busy with levy payers questioning the remit, and lobby group Groundswell said young farmers in particular are angry about the timing of the proposal.

Group co-founder Bryce McKenzie said higher remuneration might be justified, but he described the timing as “insensitive” to struggling sheep and beef farmers.

“We’re not opposed to the increase, it’s just the timing.”

Acland said an increase is necessary to remove a barrier preventing people from putting themselves forward.

Only three candidates are standing for two BLNZ board roles, compared to 13 who recently contested the two DairyNZ vacancies.

“We’re just not getting the interest,” she said.

“It’s not all just money, but finances should not be a barrier.”

Acland estimates she spends three days a week on BLNZ business, but said the role is not about earning money or career advancement.

Remuneration needs to be adequate to enable the employment of causal staff when directors are on board business, but Acland said there are also consequences from directors being unable to focus and make daily decisions about their farming business.

She said an independent remuneration committee made up of farmers was formed to make a recommendation based on fees paid by other levy bodies, farming groups and workload.

“I’m conscious of running a very transparent process.”

The proposal will increase the director fees pool from $401,500 to $475,000, boost the chair’s remuneration to $90,000 – it is currently $76,220 – and directors’ payments to $45,000, up from $38,110.

The fund for additional director duties is recommended to increase from $20,000 to $25,000.

In comparison, the DairyNZ chair is paid $98,000 and directors $49,000. There is a $20,000 pool for sub-committee chairs and another of $25,000 for work over and above normal duties.

Acland acknowledged the difficult times for levy payers but said delaying this recommendation would mean larger increases in subsequent years to maintain relativity.

Federated Farmers meat and wool section chair Toby Williams supports the increase given the workload and challenges that come with it.

He said he sees the work directors do in Wellington, which is often out of sight of levy payers.

Other remits want BLNZ to defend the role of ruminant animals and methane in climate change and protect the “pure and natural reputation of red meat” from technology, such as genetic modification, to meet climate change goals.

Another calls for any remit vote that receives more than 70% support of the levy payers who voted, to be binding.

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