Taranaki’s David MacLeod has become the first Maori director of dairy giant Fonterra and the region’s first director in four years.
The politician, company director and businessman joins incumbents John Monaghan, Eketahuna, and Waikato’s Jim van der Poel on the board after an election fought nationwide by 10 candidates over six weeks.
The chairman of the Taranaki Regional Council, Parininihi Ki Waitotara Incorporation and Port Taranaki director, and Hawera-based Greaves Electrical owner will be one of nine farmer directors on the 13-strong board.
The 43-year-old was buzzing yesterday. “It’s amazing. I can’t believe it,” he grinned amid a flurry of text messages and telephone calls in PKW’s New Plymouth office.
He received the news at 2.50pm and was called soon after by Fonterra chairman Henry van der Heyden.
He will attend the company’s annual meeting in Whangarei tomorrow.
Voting in the election surged on Monday from just 37.7 per cent of farms to 50.45 per cent when it closed yesterday morning.
Mr MacLeod said he had felt at a disadvantage in the campaign because, unlike the other candidates, he had no profile in the dairy industry outside of Taranaki and no farm, although he grew up on one near Manaia.
He thought his youth and his Maori affiliation were among the reasons for his support.
Being a Maori elected at large was an absolute mandate – and was preferable to occupying a dedicated Maori seat. “You stand on your merits.”
Mr MacLeod said Taranaki shareholders were at the core of his support.
“There’ll be a lot of pleased Taranaki people – but it’s not a representative position.”
Mr MacLeod said a five-day roadshow early this month with the other nine candidates was mentally gruelling.
Featuring 10-minute sessions with 10 groups at each of the 10 venues was “like 100 job interviews in a week”.
PKW general manager Dion Tuuta said Mr MacLeod did not shy away from visiting the strongholds of his opponents during the campaign.
Mr MacLeod said he wanted to commit fully to the Fonterra directorship, so whether he continued his roles as TRC chairman and as Port Taranaki director would be time-dependent.
His priorities, in order, were his wife, Leasa, and their three children, his electrical business, PKW and Fonterra. “I’m passionate about the regional council. We have some unfinished business but I may have to sacrifice something.”
If he remained TRC chairman, he would declare his interest and stand aside when Fonterra issues were discussed.
“Fonterra is not a majority of regional council business – it’s only a component.”
Fonterra had a challenging year ahead, with 45 cents already shaved off the forecast payout for the 2011-12 dairy season, the high New Zealand dollar and financial unrest in Europe and the United States.
“I hope we’re in the right business – being in the food business. We’ll keep selling to those Asian countries.”
Mr Tuuta said Mr MacLeod’s election would create new networks for the incorporation. “We’re very proud of his achievement which indicates the calibre of PKW board members.”
Former Fonterra Shareholders’ Council chairman and North Taranaki farmer Blue Read said Mr MacLeod’s governance experience and knowledge of sustainability issues would stand him in good stead as a Fonterra director. “His attitude in his role as TRC chairman to environmental issues will be very good for the rest of the country.”
Mr MacLeod said one-time deputy chairman of Kiwi Dairies Greg Ghent, whom he replaced on the Fonterra board, was a loss to the dairy industry. He was seen as a potential Fonterra chairman “so I’ve got big shoes to fill.”
Source: Taranaki Daily News