Co-operative pioneer made outstanding contribution

Co-operative pioneer made outstanding contribution

Kim DeGarnham, pictured, received the Outstanding Co-operative Contribution award in recognition of her significant contributions stretching over 30 years. In 1996 Kim became the first appointed female manager at Foodstuffs South Island and then, in 2009, when she was appointed to the Corporate Executive team, she also broke new ground as its first female executive. She has mentored, supported and encouraged female co-op members and staff throughout her career.

Outstanding Co-operative Contribution award winner: Kim DeGarnham

GM Employee and Support Services / Company Secretary, Foodstuffs South Island


This category recognises an individual who, over the long term (10+ years), has contributed significantly to the success of the co-operative model for a Cooperative Business NZ Member organisation, otherwise to the wider co-operative sector here in NZ.

This award is not intended to just recognise long service, it is to recognise significant contributions made to developing a Member’s co-operative business model and/or to the broader co-operative sector here in New Zealand.


Kim DeGarnham’s retirement from Foodstuffs South Island in July 2018 marked an impressive career spanning more than 30 years with this leading co-operative. She was the champion of its members – the voice of wisdom and experience who staff and members turned to when times got tough. Kim was always an instrumental, strong and effective driver of many initiatives that continue to enhance the business performance of stores throughout the co-operative. She has been a continual catalyst for change, a challenger of the status quo and pivotal in driving a more professional approach across all areas of the co-operative.

In addition, Kim has been a committed champion of the co-op model and has dedicated her time and many abilities to advocating for the betterment of co-operatives nationwide. Bringing a more diverse approach to what had often been an old-fashioned and conservative business model, colleagues say Kim has turned a lot of things on their head and helped create a more modern progressive mind shift.

From the co-op members’ perspective:

As the Manager of Member Financial Services, Kim was always the steadying influence, the one that would not just explain things in plain English and advise on all money matters, she would work tirelessly with members to help solve any tough situation.

Long-time New World Ilam Owner/Operator, Phil Blackburn recounts some advice given to him many years ago:  

“Everything will be ok as long as you run it by Kim first. Kim, we all owe you a huge debt of gratitude for the role you have played in our co-operative.”

Robin Brown, who worked with Kim for many years, both as New World Rangiora Owner/Operator and former Chair of FSSI Board of Directors reported:

“Kim has an ability to get to the heart of an issue and was always very well prepared in all her dealings. She always had Foodstuffs’ best interests at heart and was a fierce promoter of the co-operative and its principles as well as co-operatives in general”.

In 1996 Kim became the first appointed female manager at FSSI and then in 2009 when she was appointed to the Corporate Executive team – also its first female executive. She has mentored, supported and encouraged female co-op members and staff throughout her career.

When it came to money – Kim was the gatekeeper. She helped new members into stores, others out; she managed their loans, and watched the cash flow. Her ‘Tuesday phone call’ after weekly store financials were released, were legendary.

In the words of Phil Blackburn from New World Ilam:

“Kim has been a no-nonsense lady, and for those newer members who have never had the privilege of trying to talk their way out of why their bank account was constantly overdrawn on a Tuesday morning following a phone call from Kim, they have missed out on a truly iconic experience.”

While her magic wand was joked about, her steadfast hand and financial ability was the saving grace of co-operative members time and time again. Kim reports: “I was able to listen, provide a different approach, explain things in plain language and help them find the best way to manage their way out of a tough place. Nothing was ever a problem and I did everything I could to help our members succeed.”

Kim’s philosophy has always been that FSSI is only successful when our members are successful, and our members are only successful when FSSI is successful. “This is the essence that has driven the partnership of our co-operative and why we are so successful,” she says.

A snapshot of Kim’s achievements:

Kim leaves an impressive legacy and over three decades has been instrumental in the continued success and growth of the co-operative and co-operatives as a collective nationwide. Her scope was large and diverse but, and from the perspective of nurturing and driving success for the co-op members, some of her major contributions include:

In 1996 Kim was appointed FSSI Deputy Company Secretary while in 2009 she was promoted to Company Secretary and her contribution in this space has been immense. She pushed hard for the appointment of FSSI’s first independent directors which involved a re-write of the co-op’s constitution in order to allow for two independent directors to join the board in 2018.

  • Foodstuffs Community Trust. Kim has more than 10 years’ service to the Trust, which gives back to local communities and those most in need, first as Secretary and then as CEO Trustee Delegate from February 2014.

Justin Smith, Chairperson of Foodstuffs Community Trust had the following to say:

“For any organisation to grow and flourish, it takes dedicated members like Kim. I would like to acknowledge the time and input Kim has made to ensure the objectives of the Trust are met. Her organisation behind the scenes and to systems have been instrumental to the exceptional functionality and accountability of the Trust.

“She has set up and maintained the financial accounting of the Sponsorship and Supporter funds, along with the payments of Grants, ensuring they are managed transparently and efficiently. Thank you also for the evolving functionality and ease of use of the Board papers.”

  • Training and development. From the shop floor to the executive team – training and development was always a top priority. Kim has been the driver in establishing a respected and sought-after Management and Leadership Training programmes. While established and utilised primarily for Foodstuffs people, the reputation and calibre of the training soon became known and other South Island companies approached Kim and asked to be involved. Today companies and co-operatives like Ngai Tahu, City Care and Farmlands send their prospective leaders on this intensive programme.
  • Earthquake support. There was no Canterbury store untouched by the impact of the Canterbury earthquakes of 2010, 2011 and 2016. Kim managed all interactions with the insurance companies, leaving members to focus on their businesses and people. In each quake there were stores that had to close. Kim took over payroll, supported or managed many of their business as usual financial functions and operational requirements, helped them through the process of making staff redundant, including negotiating better than normal redundancy packages. Then she and her team went on to contact other stores across the co-operative and find new jobs for as many of the redundant staff as possible.
  • Kim joined the Board of Co-operative Business New Zealand in 2014 (pictured below) and was committed to improving legislative and trading conditions for all co-ops across the country. With both her FSSI and CBNZ hats on, Kim was part of a team that worked diligently to amend suggested changes to the International Financial Reporting standards.

Christine Burr (pictured above, second from right), fellow Co-operative Business New Zealand Director, had the following to say in relation to NZ legislation that was being drafted on International Financial Reporting Standards several years ago: 

“Without the change in legislation many co-operatives would effectively have become insolvent. Kim became involved in making submissions and part of the success in changing legislation for the benefit of NZ’s co-operatives.

“Kim is a strong advocate for the co-operative business model and through Foodstuffs South Island has provided financial assistance for co-operative research in New Zealand.

“She has provided excellent governance as a Director of Co-operative Business New Zealand and her professional acumen has been extremely valuable.”