Newly elected Cooperative Business NZ Board looking to drive real change for the sector

By Cooperative Business New Zealand | November 2021
Four directors have been elected to the Cooperative Business NZ Board, with their governance experience mirroring the breadth and depth that the co-operative business model affords.

Four directors have been elected to the Cooperative Business NZ Board, with their governance experience mirroring the breadth and depth that the co-operative business model affords. 

New Zealand’s co-operative businesses span multiple sectors and industries, from agriculture to insurance; retail to technology; banking to construction, horticulture to healthcare. For Cooperative Business NZ, the voice of member-owned businesses, it was crucial to ensure the Board represented the complex make-up of New Zealand’s co-operative landscape. 

Mike Brown, CEO of Marlborough Grape Growers Cooperative; Greg Gent, Chair of Southern Cross Health Society; and Matthew Washington, CFO of Mitre 10 New Zealand Limited, were elected as member directors at the organisation’s September virtual AGM, with Professor Nicola Shadbolt, Massey University, subsequently being brought on as an independent Director. 

The New Zealand Co-operative Economy Report, completed by PwC and released in September 2021, revealed that the country is home to approximately 330 member-owned businesses with their top 30 having 1.5 million members (shareholders). The new Board not only have ‘boots-on-the-ground’ experience across these co-operatives, but the critical governance, advocacy and education knowledge that will ensure these member-owned businesses continue to thrive. 

Leading primary industry co-operative, Marlborough Grape Growers Cooperative CEO, Mike Brown comes to the table with specialist knowledge of New Zealand’s primary, horticulture, and export sectors. An advocate of primary sector education and collaborative activity, a key piece of the co-operative puzzle, Mike’s experience includes significant work in sustainability, Te Ao Māori, and ‘NZ Inc’ initiatives, utilising the collective of government agencies assisting business. 

Greg Gent joins the Board with the backing of an extensive career in governance, spanning several decades across multiple sectors. The current Chair of Southern Cross Health Society, Greg also is the past Chair of Farmers’ Mutual Group, past Director of Fonterra, and works as a dairy farmer in Ruawai. His experience across both the agriculture sector and financial services will provide the Board, and members, with a unique understanding of what critical needs are required to be addressed to ensure co-operatives continue to deliver substantial economic, social, and environmental outcomes for New Zealand.

Matthew Washington joins the Board as a member-director from one of the organisation’s largest retail members, Mitre 10 New Zealand Limited. Currently their Chief Financial Officer, and with 30 years’ experience in professional services, building, construction, and retail, Matthew comes to the table as a strong advocate for the business model and an understanding of how co-operative governance differs from those of a corporate entity. 

Nicola Shadbolt has extensive governance exposure and is an experienced advocate of the co-operative model. A Professor of Farm and Agri Business Management at Massey University, she is the current Chair of Plant and Food Research Institute, Climate Change Commissioner, and a former director of Fonterra. 

Additionally, in recognition of the importance of succession and professional development, Cooperative Business NZ is supporting the Institute of Directors in its Future Directors Programme. This year we welcome Stefan Azzopardi, Chief Finance and Risk Office at Southern Cross Health Society as a Board Observer. The organisation farewell and thank Melanie Beattie for her time in this role over the past year. 

The new Directors join Christine Burr (Chair), Commercial Manager Milk Supply at Fonterra, Lisa Murray, General Counsel at Farmers’ Mutual Group, along with re-elected Director Andy Grant, Director at Ashburton Lyndhurst Irrigation Ltd. 

It’s an honour to have the opportunity to work alongside such a high calibre group of individuals, says CEO Roz Henry.

“Their combined experience, knowledge and skills, covering a range of sectors and specialist knowledge will prove invaluable and greatly assist in pursuing the interest of our members, in particular working alongside our government and educators to support New Zealand member-owned businesses”

With the 2020 – 2023 strategic plan well into play, despite the turbulence of the last 18 months, this new, highly experienced group of governors are well placed to lead the organisation to ensure New Zealand member-owned businesses are recognised and supported to continue to be a key contributor to our economy and communities. 

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