Tuesday, 17 May 2022 09:55

Feds stalwart to step down

Written by  Sudesh Kissun
Chris Lewis says he signalled his intention to resign a month ago to the Feds national board. Chris Lewis says he signalled his intention to resign a month ago to the Feds national board.

Outspoken Federated Farmers leader Chris Lewis is stepping down from the farmer lobby after 17 years of service.

The Waikato farmer, a national board member and spokesman on immigration and labour issues for the past two years, will leave at Fed's annual meeting in Auckland in early July.

He is one of two high-profile Feds leaders to call it quits National board member and spokesman on water and biodiversity Chris Allen is also stepping down.

Lewis, a former chair of the Feds dairy sector, says he signalled his intention to resign a month ago to national board.

He has also offered to stay on as the spokesman on immigration and labour to help the new board member to transition into the new role.

"These subjects are quite technical and I've offered to stay on and help out with the transition," Lewis told Dairy News.

"You just can't expect the new person to get into the role, pick it up and run."

Lewis says stepping down a year before his three-year term ends should also help the incoming board members.

"Both Chris Allen and I thought the right thing is to stand down and let two new people in this year," he says.

"Next year, there will be a lot more elections: many years ago, we had six new people come into the national board and it took them almost a year to get their feet under the table," Lewis says.

Federated Farmers will hold its board elections next year when president, Andrew Hoggard, will step down at the end of his three-year term.

Asked why he didn't stay on and gun for the national presidency, Lewis says while being on the national board is time consuming, the presidency takes it to a whole new level.

"I actually enjoy farming, that's my passion I have seen the role played by Andrew (Hoggard) and Katie (immediate past president Katie Milne): they were off farm all the time.

"I enjoy being with my wife and kids and decided not to play second fiddle to them and pursue the top job."

Lewis recalls being offered a Kellogg Rural Leadership programme when he joined Feds: his eldest child was just nine months old.

He says he developed a mantra of three F's - family, farm and Feds in that order.

"And along the way came the fourth F - fun."

Lewis says his stint with Feds has had both good times and not so good times.

"We've has some challenging issues to deal with along the journey," he told Dairy News.

"Farmers are very tough masters; they are quick to let you know whether you have done a good or a bad job."

Lewis says he decided before last Christmas to resign from Feds.

"I decided that I had run out of diesel in my tank. It's time to look for some fresh challenges."

Lewis says he will always remain a big supporter of Feds.

He points out that leaders and staff who have left the organisation are still in touch.

Some have entered public service and others have gone into local and regional politics.

Staying Relevant

Chris Lewis believes he is leaving an organisation, which is ready to serve farmers for another 100 years.

He says Federated Farmers has continually made changes: a governance review is underway at the moment.

"We've done a lot of work on our finances, our membership structure and there are quite a few projects to make sure we're still around for another 100 years."

Lewis points out that a lot of industry organisation like RSA clubs and sport clubs have struggled in recent times.

"The issue for Feds is how we remain relevant to our members and they still keep paying us their subs.

"I think under this Labour Government every farmer, whether a member or not, has got a massive amount out of value out of the organisation," he says.

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