Tuesday, 15 January 2019 08:10

Another rebel wins election

Written by  Sudesh Kissun
Newly-elected Fonterra director John Nicholls. Newly-elected Fonterra director John Nicholls.

Canterbury farmer John Nicholls last month became the second farmer-nominated candidate to win a seat on Fonterra’s board.

Nicholls was the victor in the second director election, getting 53% support from shareholders. His opponent Jamie Tuuta got 37% support.

Nicholls’ election means Fonterra farmers have elected only one of the three candidates recommended by its directors and the Shareholders Council.

The outcome also raises questions about the independent selection panel which interviews potential candidates and recommends them to the board and council.

The three-member panel is chaired by independent Dame Alison Paterson and includes board nominee John Spencer and council nominee Tony Carter.

Outgoing Zespri chairman Peter McBride was the only successful candidate recommended by the panel.

McBride was successful in the first election along with Leonie Guiney who, like Nicholls, self-nominated with the backing of farmer shareholders.

Former Fonterra director Ashley Waugh – who was unsuccessful in the first election and did not stand in the re-vote – and Tuuta were recommended by panel.

The first election saw only two successful candidates declared, forcing the council to run a second election to fill a third vacancy on the board.

Returning officer Warwick Lamp, of electionz.com Ltd, declared the final result of the second 2018 election on December 20.

The voting return was 64.10% by milk solids, being 5324 votes cast by 9347 shareholders of whom 79.19% voted via the internet and 20.81% by post.

A self-made farmer

Along with his wife Kelly, John Nicholls owns the Rylib Group, which has six dairy farms in the Hinds area of Mid-Canterbury. 

A former Shareholders Council member, Nicholls is also chair of MHV Water, an irrigation cooperative supplying water to 50,000ha in the Ashburton district. 

Nicholls emphasises his track record of success in growing the business from small beginnings. The couple started in Wairarapa where they converted a property with seed capital from his parents.

“Wairarapa was a really hard place to farm. You only ever made money one in every three years without irrigation water and it taught us a lot of lessons. The second year in, our advisers were telling us to not continue this journey.”

Seeing opportunity in Mid-Canterbury, they moved south in 2005, buying two farms in their first year. Their six farms now employ 30 staff, milking at least 5000 cows and producing 2.5 million kgMS. 


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