Thursday, 06 September 2018 16:02

Farm co-ops lead the way

Written by  Nigel Malthus
Silver Fern Farms chair Rob Hewett. Silver Fern Farms chair Rob Hewett.

Farming cooperatives have dominated the awards made this year by Cooperative Business New Zealand (CBNZ).

This body represents industries whose members run as co-ops, e.g. agriculture, manufacturing, insurance, banking and other financial services, utilities, education, health, wholesale and retail.

Farming co-ops won three of the four main awards announced at CBNZ’s awards night.

The Hokitika dairy co-op Westland Milk Products won the 2018 Co-operative Business of the Year award, for “a significant and positive impact within the co-operative community during the 2017-18 year”.

The judges said this recognised Westland having successfully reinvented itself using the co-op model as a strength, and promoting to its customers its productive relationship with its 350 shareholding farmers. The award “celebrated the success of the co-operative business model”.

The chairman of Livestock Improvement Corporation (LIC), Murray King, of Nelson, was named the Co-operative Leader of the Year, recognised for his “exceptional leadership while steering the agri-tech co-op through a long period of disruption and uncertainty”.

CBNZ chief executive Craig Presland said the LIC board had reviewed its capital structure to devise a simpler, fairer share structure while protecting its cooperative principles.

Agricultural services co-op Farmlands and meat processing co-op Silver Fern Farms jointly won the ‘Co-operation Amongst Cooperatives’ award, for working together to foster future farming leaders.

The two co-ops run three-day governance training events called To the Core; this enables shareholders to learn how their co-ops work and to develop their leadership skills.

Silver Fern Farms chair Rob Hewett said Farmlands had been the ideal partner in To the Core, which Silver Ferns started in 2016.

“It touches on the important parts of being a director, such as finance and health and safety and strategy, and gets us focused on what matters for the future.”

A fourth award, for Outstanding Co-operative Contribution, went to Foodstuffs executive Kim DeGarnham, who became Foodstuffs South Island’s first woman manager in 1996. 

CBNZ says co-ops employ at least 48,000 NZers, make up about 20% of NZ’s GDP and turn over about NZ$43 billion a year.


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