Our History

Over 40 years and counting

Our history dates back to 1981, when a Steering Committee was established to consider forming an industry body to support and represent New Zealand’s agricultural co-operatives.

In March 1984, The New Zealand Agricultural Co-operative Association was registered. Our name was changed in May 1997 to New Zealand Co-operative Association and again in February 2013 to Cooperative Business New Zealand. In most communications, we refer to ourselves as Cooperative Business NZ.

So how did we get to where we are today? Here’s a snippet of our history and the key people who have helped make the organisation a success.

Mike Brown Profile

Steering Committee

1981 – 1984

April 1981 saw the first Steering Committee formed. Like a newly established co-operative today, these individuals saw a need in the community and banded together to devise a solution.

The committee consisted of:

  • Peter Elworthy (Chairman, Federated Farmers)
  • Brian Cameron (Deputy Chair, PPCS – now Silver Fern Farms)
  • Alex Wright (Ravensdown)
  • Ian Woolsey (BOP Farmers Trading Society)
  • Rae Jordan (NZ Co-operative Wool Marketing Association)
  • John Graham (Chairman of NZ Dairy Board)


1984 – 1997

In March 1984, the NZ Agricultural Co-operative Association was formed, setting the wheels in motion for what we now know as Cooperative Business NZ.

The Board members were:

  • Chair – Brian Cameron, 1984 – 1997 (PPCS)
  • Deputy Chairman – John Falconer (Alliance Freezing Co.)
  • John Tripp (NZ Dairy Board)
  • Alex Wright (Ravensdown Fertiliser Co.)
  • Ian Woolsey (Bay Farmers Trading Society, now Farmlands)
  • John Heaton (Nelson Packhouse)
  • Graeme Robertson (South Island Export Barley Soc.)
  • Rae Jorden (NZ Co-op Wool Marketing Assn.)
  • Tom McNab (Farmers Mutual Insurance Group)

    Frank Ryan was the Association Secretary from 1984-1993, and Paul Giles from 1993-1997 (both ex NZ Dairy Board).


    Mike Brown Profile

    New Zealand Cooperatives Association

    1997 – 2013

    The organisation opened up to all co-operatives, regardless of sector.

    From May 1997 to June 2005, Ian Reid (ex PSIS) was CEO. Peter MacDougall, Alex Wright and Brian Cameron were all Chairs during this period.

    In June 2005, Ramsay Margolis became CEO. Between June 2005 and February 2013, Blue Read, Chris Knowles, Peter MacDougall and Alex Wright were all Chairs during this period

    Cooperative Business New Zealand

    2013 – today

    Formed in February 2013, we became what we are today – Cooperative Business New Zealand (or Cooperative Business NZ, as we like to say).

    Ramsay Margolis remained CEO until December 2013, and Blue Read as Chair.

    From January – April 2014, Fiona Gavriel was Acting CEO. Ian McIntosh stepped into the position from May 2014 – April 2015, followed by Craig Presland from April 2016 – September 2019 and Roz Henry from September 2019 – February 2024. Throughout this period, Jonathan Lee was Chair. He was succeeded by Christine Burr in March 2020.

    Christine stepped down as Chair (and 12 years on the Board) in 2022, and Mike Brown became Chair in September 2022. Current CEO, Saya Wahrlich joined in February 2024.

    Our Story in Images

    Through the Years

    Key individuals

    Honorary Members

    Community, cooperation and collaboration are all central to the co-operative model. New Zealand is fortunate to be home to some outstanding individuals who have dedicated much of their working (and personal) lives to the co-operative sector. One way in which Cooperative Business NZ seeks to recognise the contribution these individuals have made is through Honorary Membership. These memberships are awarded to a select few who have made significant contributions to co-operatives in New Zealand over many years, as well as to past Chairs of the organisation.

    Our current Honorary Members are:

    Brian Cameron  I  John Falconer  I  Russell Green  I  Chris Knowles  I  Jonathan Lee  I  Peter MacDougall  I  Blue Read  I  Ian Reid  I David Shaw  I  Christine Burr  I  Alex Wright