Candidates stress reform message

Former Meat Industry Excellence members (from left) Don Morrison, of Waikaka Valley, Richard Young, of Tapanui, and Dan Jex-Blake, of Gisborne, address people attending a meeting in Omakau last week to meet the candidates who are standing for the Alliance and Silver Fern Farms boards. Photo by Timothy Brown.
Former Meat Industry Excellence members (from left) Don Morrison, of Waikaka Valley, Richard Young, of Tapanui, and Dan Jex-Blake, of Gisborne, address people attending a meeting in Omakau last week to meet the candidates who are standing for the Alliance and Silver Fern Farms boards. Photo by Timothy Brown.
The future of the red meat sector lies in the hands of farmers, a meeting in Omakau was told last week.

It was one of a series of meetings held from Te Kuiti to Tokanui last month which were organised by Meat Industry Excellence. Those present could meet and discuss the future of the red meat sector with the candidates Meat Industry Excellence was backing to be elected on to the boards of New Zealand's co-operative meat companies.

Tapanui farmer and former Meat Industry Excellence chairman Richard Young and Gisborne farmer Dan Jex-Blake are standing for the board of Silver Fern Farms, while Waikaka Valley farmer Don Morrison is standing for the board of Alliance.

About a dozen farmers attended the Omakau meeting. However, Mr Jex-Blake said the meetings had been attended by 30-50 people on average.

He told the meeting the red meat sector was ''in trouble'', lacked ''vision'' and was ''totally bereft of leadership''.

''It's a strategy of survival and a race to the bottom,'' he said.

''The status quo is unsustainable and the situation we find ourselves in is an indictment of us all.''

Farmers needed to regain control of the industry and the first step was getting farmers who were active about industry reform on to the boards of the co-operatives, he said.

Mr Morrison said a large voter turnout was important to show the companies that those elected had a mandate for reform.

A turnout of 20%, as had been the case in past elections, would not suffice and farmers needed to speak to their peers to encourage them to vote, he said.

Mr Young said reforming the industry needed all participants to be involved and adding value to the sector and it was not just a case of merging Alliance and Silver Fern Farms.

Meat Industry Excellence adviser Ross Hyland said a large voter turnout would send a clear message change was wanted and, if farmers supported change, he was ''very positive about political support''.