Saturday, December 2, 2023

Candidates show transparency

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Fonterra farmers have been presented with high-class skills and experiences to help them choose between five candidates for two positions as farmer-directors in this year’s board election.
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Incumbents seeking re-election, Donna Smit and Andy Macfarlane, are being challenged by assessed candidates Cathy Quinn and Philipp Haas, and non-assessed, self-nominated candidate Victor Rutherford. 

Profiles, assessments where applicable and statements from all candidates were released along with notice of the annual meeting on November 7.

Quinn scored well in governance capabilities, co-operative empathy and structural knowledge of the dairy industry, having previously advised Fonterra during the Trading Among Farmers formation.

She was credited with considerable success as a corporate lawyer and is already a director of Tourism Holdings and Fletcher Building.

The independent assessment panel said Quinn has a calm, collected and clear communication style and projects a high level of competence.

“She would offer significant value in strongly representing farmers’ interests on Fonterra’s board,” the panel said.

Smit has a very high standard of governance in primary industries from her lengthy experience as a senior executive and chartered accountant in kiwifruit operator EastPack, her family’s multiple dairy farm business and previous directorships.

Her priorities include farming and company environmental sustainability, working towards higher resilience and positioning Fonterra’s dairy products from pasture-fed cows, NZ provenance and co-operative ownership.

The panel said she showed grit and determination as a director during times of change and transformation and has a demonstrated heartfelt understanding of farming communities.

Haas has a long, successful track record in business management and strategic thinking, the assessment panel said.

He has been a joint Swiss and NZ citizen for 20 years and worked in manufacturing businesses overseas while overseeing extensive land and property interests in NZ and Argentina.

“Overall, Fonterra would be fortunate to have an individual with his experience as a farmer-director.

“His confident but understated personal style and succinct and decisive mode of communication suggested he would resonate well with existing board members and provide confidence to shareholders that he was representing their interests well.”

Long-time farm management consultant and rural businessman Macfarlane was assessed as having a wide range of managerial, practical and collegial skills.

Former and present leadership positions in the deer industry, rural servicing, the meat industry and at Lincoln University were cited.

“He is passionate about food production and the sustainable use of water and the use of science, education and communication strategies to help build sustainable rural businesses with values that enhance the NZ brand.

“My passion is linking the global opportunities with on-farm potential across multiple land uses,” Macfarlane said.

Rutherford said he presents a strong voice of perspective, conscience and connection with Fonterra.

“Trust has been lost and it needs to be earned again.

“As Fonterra farmers, we’re all business people running a substantial operation and the lack of transparency is creating disillusion in our supplier base.

“I have been very vocal in support of dairy farmers and have an unshakable integrity to be a valuable asset on the Fonterra board but do not believe the independent selection panel or Shareholders Council could see past my previous outspoken history.”

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