Battle over director not over

Any attempt by Alliance Group's board to reject the wishes of its shareholders, over the quest to get John Monaghan elected as a director, would be ''very unwise'', Wanaka farmer Mandy Bell says.

An attempt to get Mr Monaghan, a Fonterra director and former Fonterra Shareholders Council chairman, on to the board of the meat co-operative took an unusual twist last week, with Alliance Group chairman Murray Taggart saying Mr Monaghan had withdrawn from the independent director appointment process and Mr Monaghan maintaining that he had not.

Yesterday, Lawrence farmer Mark Patterson, who moved the non-binding shareholders' resolution to have Mr Monaghan appointed, which was passed at Alliance Group's annual meeting, and Dr Bell, who seconded it, issued a statement, saying he remained committed to standing for the board.

Dr Bell, who has just completed a round of shareholder meetings to elicit up-to-date shareholder views, said there was a real sense of urgency concerning the need for change.

''You only have to look at the wave of capital stock coming on to the market at present as land-use change gathers momentum.

''The status quo for the red meat sector is unsustainable and new thinking from the likes of John Monaghan is desperately needed. This is not business as usual; we need to work together to find solutions,'' she said.

Mr Patterson said Mr Monaghan was committed to bringing his skills and experience to assist in building up Alliance Group and leading much-needed reform in the red meat sector.

''Murray Taggart's statement calls into question whether there was ever any serious intent by the board to consider the direction of their shareholders,'' he said.

There was an expectation among shareholders that Mr Monaghan would be appointed, especially in light of the latent fourth independent director's position, he said.

That would give the board the opportunity to continue its process of filling the vacant third independent spot as well as respecting the ''explicit direction'' of shareholders to appoint Mr Monaghan.

''There is an opportunity for a complete win-win scenario to be realised which is consistent with the co-operative values that Alliance espouses,'' he said.

Meat Industry Excellence chairman John McCarthy described the situation as ''bewildering''.

There seemed to be a lack of regard concerning the shareholders' wishes which were quite clearly expressed both by the ''huge'' increase in voter participation and also by the fact the resolution was carried by more than a million votes, he said.

The board could appoint up to four independent directors, so there was ''every opportunity'' for it to carry out the resolution passed by shareholders.

The board has two independent directors - Graeme Milne, from Cambridge, and John Waller, from Auckland. Owen Poole retired as an independent director last year.

In accordance with the co-operative principles, it would not be unreasonable to expect the board to enable its shareholders' wishes, Mr McCarthy said.

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