Southland farmer Geoffrey Young says his elevation to the board of Beef + Lamb New Zealand is a win for the country’s “disenfranchised and unheard farmers”.
Young ousted long-serving board member and chair Andrew Morrison after winning the Southern South Island director election by 8777 weighted votes to 6587 votes.
Morrison’s term will end after the BLNZ annual meeting in New Plymouth on March 30, when a new chair will be elected.
At the same time, Morrison’s term with the New Zealand Meat Board will conclude and that board will elect a new chair following the BLNZ meeting.
Young told Farmers Weekly there is clearly a mood for change among farmers and his decision to stand has “certainly been vindicated”.
“I’m delighted for all of the farmers who have felt unheard or ignored or disenfranchised by Beef + Lamb over the last several years,” he said.
Young stood as an independent, but said senior members of Federated Farmers and lobby group Groundswell had asked him to put his name forward.
He said he is honoured to be elected and now wants to move towards creating a united voice between BLNZ, Federated Farmers and DairyNZ.
“Andrew has worked very hard and has certainly raised the profile,” Young said.
“But farmers felt he wasn’t being strong enough in their advocacy, especially around He Waka Eke Noa [HWEN] and greenhouse gas emissions.”
Given Young’s clear majority in the election, he hopes the board will be open to discussions about HWEN and its future.
“I’m not in favour of sitting in a meeting just for the sake of talking. I like to see something get done.”
Morrison was disappointed to lose, but said that is the nature of democracy.
He said he has enjoyed his nine years with BLNZ, including five as chair, and said its staff and management are outstanding.
Morrison believes strong farmer feelings about HWEN had “massively” played a part in voting.
“The issues that were yesterday in the sector remain the same tomorrow.
“It’s very easy to make a statement about whatever. The point is, the challenge remains the same and a solution has to be found.
“In those positions you need to represent all sheep and beef farmers nationally. You can’t represent an interest group or a region. That may be viewed as a challenge for some.”
Morrison has been inundated with messages of support since the election, which he said has been “quite humbling”.
“None of us do this for the money. We do this because we like the sector. I understand the angst in the sector and that some people might not get the outcome they wanted in some of the policies.”
Morrison is looking forward to spending more time on his farm and with family, particularly his ageing mother.