SFF vote shows desire for change

David Shaw.
David Shaw.
Clinton farmer David Shaw has been ousted from the board of Silver Fern Farms as former Meat Industry Excellence executive members Richard Young and Dan Jex-Blake have been voted on.

A desire for change in the meat industry has been evident in both major co-operative elections, with another former MIE executive member, Don Morrison, elected to Alliance Group's board last week.

The trio all stood down from the executive of the group, formed earlier this year to push for reform in the industry, to seek election to the respective boards.

Mr Young, who runs a 300ha intensive sheep and cropping property at Tapanui, comfortably topped the Silver Fern Farms election with 36,155,094 votes, followed by Mr Jex-Blake (25,511,166) and Mr Shaw (19,435,482).

The results were released ahead of the company's annual meeting in Dunedin tomorrow.

Mr Jex-Blake is managing director of a 24,000 stock unit pastoral farming company operating off 2260ha near Gisborne.

When contacted yesterday, Mr Young said both boards were now ''certainly aware'' that farmers wanted change.

It was ''hugely gratifying'' to know there was such a level of support and it was a huge mandate from farmers to push for change.

''We're the guys now in the box seat to drive it,'' he said.

Richard Young.
Richard Young.
While it was a big responsibility, Mr Young said he was up for the challenge and looking forward to it. Mr Jex-Blake said there were big challenges ahead and he was conscious of the ''significant mantle of responsibility'' that had been given to the new directors.

''That's totally fair enough. We've stood on a platform to drive change,'' he said.

They had ''tapped a vein of discontent'', with the status quo not being acceptable.

When contacted, Mr Shaw, who was a director between 2006 and 2009 then elected again in 2011, said he was very disappointed. It was very hard to be heard ''amongst the machine that's the MIE group''.

''As an incumbent director, you kind of become anonymous as a board member, given your private views aren't really articulated to shareholders,'' he said.

Farmers had been grumpy with the returns they were getting.

''I guess I was in the vice and got caught in it.''

Mr Shaw said he had always been an advocate for farmer ownership and a consolidated industry.

It took willing parties and it was a disappointment that Silver Fern Farms was ''painted'' as not necessarily being a willing party in that.

The company had consistently held out its hand to others in the industry to look at opportunities, he said.

Mr Shaw, also vice-chairman of Co-operative Business New Zealand, said farmers needed to support organisations that were there to give them benefits.

The voter turnout was 26.76% of eligible voters, up from 16.7% in the previous election in 2010.

Chairman-elect Rob Hewett said the increase reflected the understanding of a need for ''real reform'' across the industry.

''We are acutely aware of the need to keep up momentum for reform and we saw the increased farmer turnout at this election as a key indicator of farmers' desire to support the co-operative.''

Mr Young and Mr Jex-Blake's election platform was well aligned to the board's own vision, in particular their call for farmers to support co-operatives and farmer ownership.

Their support base would be invaluable as the board continued to look at ways to improve farmer control of the sector.

''Farmers now need to step up and jointly drive that momentum for change.

The next step for farmers is to see increased numbers of farmers exclusively supplying their co-operatives.''

• Silver Fern Farms holds its annual meeting at the Otago Golf Club in Dunedin tomorrow at 11am.

The meeting is open only to shareholders, not the media.

sally.rae@odt.co.nz

ODT/directory - Local Businesses

CompanyLocationBusiness Type
Manata LodgeQueenstownLodges
McInnes DentalDunedinDentists
Supercrate DunedinDunedinSpecialist Trades
Maori Hill PharmacyDunedinPharmacies