Tuesday, 03 July 2018 09:55

Don’t meddle with Fonterra

Written by  Sudesh Kissun
Fed Farmers president Katie Milne and Agricultural Minister Damien O’Connor at last weeks Feds’ national conference in Wellington. Fed Farmers president Katie Milne and Agricultural Minister Damien O’Connor at last weeks Feds’ national conference in Wellington.

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor says a wide-ranging review of dairy industry legislation isn’t an attempt by the Government to force changes to Fonterra’s constitution.

He says the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act (DIRA) review doesn’t say anything about the constitution. Fonterra’s 10,000 farmer shareholders will ultimately make a judgment on the constitution, O’Connor told Rural News.

The minister was grilled last week by Federated Farmers dairy leaders at their annual conference in Wellington; they questioned him about the DIRA review and recent attacks on Fonterra leaders by cabinet minister and NZ First MP Shane Jones.

O’Connor says how Fonterra is managed is up to its shareholders, but he had a bold message for shareholders: “if you don’t discuss it, we will”.

When Fonterra was set up in 2001, a draft constitution was part of the approval process. O’Connor notes changes have been made to the constitution over time.

“Farmers have to work whether those changes to the constitution have worked positively or negatively,” he says.

O’Connor forsees the DIRA review “tweaking legislation to ensure Fonterra is fit for purpose”.

However, Opposition agriculture spokesman Nathan Guy says the terms of reference for the DIRA review “are very wide and a moving feast”.

Guy says O’Connor isn’t ruling out changes to Fonterra’s constitution. 

“This isn’t written anywhere in the review document,” Guy says.

“After Shane Jones’ outburst this will be seen by farmers as the Government wanting to meddle further in the co-op’s business. There is already a lot of suspicion about this wide-ranging review and Fonterra farmers are becoming weary of this Government’s agenda.”

Federated Farmers leaders are taking a wait-and-see approach on how the DIRA review pans out.


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