Co-operatives celebrate their DNA at annual awards

Co-operatives celebrate their DNA at annual awards

The Cooperative Business NZ Annual Awards, which recognise outstanding contributions to the co-operative business sector, were presented on August 15 in Wellington at an event hosted by New Zealand’s apex body for co-operatives, mutuals and societies. Pictured are, left to right: Carl Taylor (CBS Co-op), Emma Parsons (CEO Agrigate, a 50/50 joint venture between LIC and Fonterra), Murray King (LIC) and Rob Hewett (Silver Fern Farms).


Co-operative Business of the Year: Livestock Improvement Corporation (LIC)

The DNA of New Zealand’s dairy industry, LIC, was recognised for world-leading biosecurity protection in the face of Mycoplasma bovis, among many other achievements.

Cooperative Business NZ CEO Craig Presland said the Waikato-based, 110-year-old agri-tech and herd improvement co-operative exemplified co-operative values and highlighted the strengths of the enduring business model.

“LIC tells, arguably, the biggest success story amongst New Zealand’s co-operatives in the last 18 months,” Mr Presland said.

“It is a stand-out example of a modern, progressive co-op, which has to operate at the leading edge of its field in dairy genetics and agri-tech to keep its farmer shareholders ahead of the game.

“Co-ops are member-owned as opposed to investor-owned, with Kiwi shareholders having skin in the game. The co-op business model is part of our nation’s DNA so it’s appropriate that LIC has won this year’s Co-operative Business of the Year.”


Co-operative Leader of the Year: Carl Taylor | Combined Building Supplies (CBS) Co-op

Builder, entrepreneur and co-founder of one-year-old building supplies start-up CBS Co-operative, Carl Taylor has been recognised as the country’s co-operative leader of the year.

Craig Presland said the Cantabrian was acting on a frustration to solve a major problem for small-to-medium-sized building contractors by launching the builder-owned co-op in April 2018.

“To date, they have brought together more than 160 SME trade businesses so that their combined spending means bigger discounts for CBS Co-op’s members.”

Mr Presland said that like CBS Co-op, New Zealand needs a game-changer to solve the country’s housing crisis with a co-operative solution being a viable option.


Co-operation Amongst Co-operatives: LIC & Fonterra, Agrigate

This award, which takes its name from one of the co-operative movement’s founding seven Rochdale Principles, was jointly won by LIC and Fonterra for Agrigate, a data-sharing and exchange platform for farmers.

Craig Presland said Agrigate was first envisaged five years ago by the late John Wilson, former Chair of Fonterra, and Murray King, Chair of LIC. They recognised that farmers increasingly employ a number of digital tools, all working independently of one another rather than in unison.

“The co-operation of LIC and Fonterra demonstrates their joint and genuine understanding of what it means to be a co-operative – working in collaboration as a way of meeting members’ needs.”


Outstanding Co-operative Contribution: Rob Hewett

Former Silver Fern Farms Chairman and future Farmlands Chairman, Rob Hewett has been recognised for his outstanding contribution to the Kiwi co-operative sector.

Craig Presland says Mr Hewett, who farms in South Otago’s Manuka Gorge, has led a range of initiatives including increasing SFF’s board diversity and working with China’s Shanghai Maling to restore SFF’s balance sheet, “while protecting the essence of the co-operative and the voice of its shareholders.”

In May 2019, Rob resigned as Chairman of Silver Fern Farms Co-operative Limited but continues as a director. He also remains Co-Chair of Silver Fern Farms Limited. Later this year, the seventh-generation farmer will become Chairman of Farmlands having sat on its board since November 2015.


Enduring Service Award: SBS Bank

New Zealand’s oldest co-operative, Southland-based SBS Bank, celebrates its 150th year of service this year – a milestone recognised by New Zealand’s apex body for co-operatives, mutuals and societies, Cooperative Business NZ.

Established in 1869, SBS Bank is believed to be the first building society in the world to have achieved bank registration, in 2008, while retaining its mutual structure.

Mr Presland said the member-owned bank ensures profits are re-distributed back to customers each year and therefore retained locally, otherwise invested into local communities “unlike our four major retail banks, all Australian-owned, whereby a portion of their $NZ 5.0+ billion in annual profits is being transferred offshore”.


Notes to Editors:

  • The Cooperative Business NZ Annual Awards began in 2016.
  • For the second year, the independent judging panel comprised Dr Lisa Callagher (University of Auckland), Phil McKendry (Electricity Ashburton and RuralCo) and Alastair Hercus (Buddle Findlay).
  • Cooperative Business NZ represents New Zealand’s co-operatives, mutuals and societies operating across the spectrum of industries including agriculture, manufacturing, insurance, banking and other financial services, utilities, wholesale and retail.
  • With the co-operative sector representing about one-fifth of our economy, and almost one-in-three Kiwis now being served as a Member of a co-operative, mutual or society, this sector represents the backbone of our economy.


For more information, please contact:


Craig Presland | Chief Executive Officer   | 09 539 5482 | 021 800 387 |