OPINION: Sustainability is at the heart of Fonterra's new strategy.
With new freshwater standards to be announced in the next few weeks, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor told TVNZ’s Q&A programme that he expects farmers’ costs in meeting new freshwater rules will be about “1-2%.”
O’Connor conceded that even more costs are not something farmers want, yet he expects them to “absorb” them.
While the minister claimed the Government opposes laying even more compliance costs on businesses, he said “some extra costs are essential” and “improved water quality across the country is wanted and necessary”.
Meanwhile, in the interview O’Connor also put the boot into Fonterra’s former board and management for the dairy co-op’s current woes.
“Crazy decisions made over the years are now coming home to roost,” he told Q&A.
But he says the “new” board and management is now being upfront and honest with farmers in its writedowns of the value of the co-op’s investments.
O’Connor was quick to point the finger at Fonterra’s “old” management and governance, saying it was “a good thing” former chief executive Theo Spierings is now gone. He also labelled Spierings’ $4.7 million exit payment as “ridiculous”.
“That is something the old board would have to answer for,” he said.
On the upcoming Dairy Industry Restructuring Act (DIRA) revision, O’Connor said the bill coming before Parliament is “about right”. He claims it will provide Fonterra a bit more protection.
“It means Fonterra [won’t] have to pick up all new milk supply and imposes new environmental and animal welfare requirements on farmers.”
But the minister says he has an open mind about making changes arising from the work of the parliamentary select committee.