Outstanding Co-operative Contribution: Rob Hewett

By Cooperative Business New Zealand | August 2019
Former Silver Fern Farms Co-op Ltd Chairman and future Farmlands Chairman, Rob Hewett received his award in recognition of Rob’s outstanding contribution to the Kiwi co-operative sector.

Rob addressed this year’s Co-operative Business Leaders’ Forum held in Auckland and was a panellist, alongside LIC’s Murray King, during that event.

Cooperative Business New Zealand CEO Craig Presland said Rob 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.

“Rob was elected to the Board of Silver Fern Farms Co-operative Limited in February 2008 in the capacity as a Farmer Elected Director.

“From 2008 to 2013, he led a range of initiatives including a major constitutional review (change in share structure, listed on the “unlisted” platform), a decrease in board size, an increase in board diversity, a capital raise from shareholders, and a potential partnership with PGG-Wrightson.

“Rob then became Chairman from 2013 to 2018. In 2014, he went to the market to raise funds to ensure the future for Silver Fern Farms’ 16,000 shareholders, 7,000 employees and numerous other connected stakeholders.

“After a global search, SFF chose Shanghai Maling to restore its balance sheet while also protecting the essence of the co-operative and the voice of its shareholders.

“Gaining an 82% shareholder vote in favour SM’s investment in SFF, and then 84% subsequently when challenged by a requisitioners’ group, two entities were formed in Dec 2016: SFF Cooperative (100% owned and controlled by shareholders, and based here in NZ) and SFF Ltd, a 50:50 partnership with Shanghai Maling, based in New Zealand.”

In 2015, the inaugural ‘To The Core’ governance training programme was developed by Silver Fern Farms in conjunction with Farmlands.

“Rob took a major role in leading and developing this (Co-operation Amongst Co-operatives award, 2018) award-winning programme,” said Craig.

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

Rob farms 9,250 stock units, 960 ha sheep and beef breeding and has a finishing unit in Manuka Gorge, South Otago. He is a chartered member of the Institute of Directors and a graduate of Lincoln University, holding an M.Com in marketing and a B.Com (Ag) in Economics.

The other finalist in this category was Puhoi’s Russell Green, former Director of Capricorn and Cooperative Business NZ.

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