CRT chairman Don McFarlane might be feeling ''a lot more
confident now'' than at the start of the proposed Farmlands
merger process but, as he acknowledges, the final decision
rests with shareholders.
Both CRT and Farmlands are holding shareholder meetings
today, in Christchurch and Hamilton respectively, and an
announcement is expected later this afternoon.
A merger would create a $2 billion turnover farming group,
according to numbers included in both co-operatives' annual
A series of meetings were held recently throughout the South
Island where shareholders could ask questions or seek details
they felt they did not have.
Turnout was ''remarkably good'' considering it was a busy
time for farmers and the general questions and involvement of
shareholders was encouraging, Mr McFarlane said.
As expected, the discussion covered a lot of topics,
including operational areas which was understandable, given
there was ''people coming together''.
One topic the company had talked about ''at some length'' was
the importance of being proactive; not only looking at the
projected savings but the opportunities in the future that a
strong national farmer-owned co-operative could achieve. That
was something that could never be fully quantified, he said.
The company had spoken about the strength that had come from
previous mergers, particularly in the South Island, and also
contrasted it with what had happened in Australia ''where the
Australian farmer has largely lost control and influence in
Last month, two Farmlands directors, Charlie Pedersen and
Hugh Ritchie, resigned over the proposal, saying they did not
believe it was in the best interest of members.
The ensuing publicity had been useful, in that shareholders
had asked about the issues that the two former directors had
raised and it had also resulted in a better turnout at
meetings, he said.
Generally, Mr McFarlane said, there had been ''pretty good
support'' but it was going to take shareholders of both
co-operatives to vote in favour of it.
A 75% threshold was required and, if shareholders voted in
favour of it, the merger would be considered effective as of
The merged society would be called Farmlands Co-operative
Society Ltd and the board would initially be chaired by
Lachie Johnstone, with Mr McFarlane as deputy chairman. Mr
Johnstone joined the Farmlands board in 2000 and has been
chairman since 2003. He worked as an accountant before moving
on to the family farm in the Waikato, which expanded to 935ha
involving an intensive bull beef system, breeding ewes and
He is managing director and shareholder of a chilled and
frozen food logistics company Wholesale Frozen Foods Ltd.
Mr McFarlane has directorships with Clough Holdings/Duncan
Ag, Moeraki Ltd, the New Zealand Honey Co-operative and
Presbyterian Support South Canterbury. He chairs the South
Canterbury Irrigation Trust which, in partnership with
Meridian Energy, has consents to irrigate 35,000ha in the
Hunter Downs scheme.
Mr McFarlane, his wife Di and son Hamish farm 575ha near
Temuka, producing carrots, potatoes, cereals, grass seed and
blackcurrants. Dairy cattle are grazed, together with lamb
Brent Esler has been selected as the chief
executive-designate for the society. He has been chief
executive of CRT since 2004.