Proudly co-operative, Fonterra wins award

Proudly co-operative, Fonterra wins award

11 August 2017

Cooperative Business NZ 2017 Annual Award winners are, from left: Duncan Coull (representing Fonterra); Oliver O’Neill (Ruralco); Neil Cowie (Mitre 10); and Brian Cameron.

New Zealand’s biggest co-operative, Fonterra has been recognised by its peers at a celebration of the people-centred, values-based co-operative business model.

Fonterra Co-operative Group, to give the dairy giant its full title, won the Co-operative Business of the Year category – one of eight awards presented at Cooperative Business New Zealand’s 2017 Annual Awards Dinner, held on August 10th at Auckland’s Eden Park.

A stunning financial turnaround, generous social responsibility programmes and a high-profile television campaign proudly proclaiming its Kiwi farmer-owned, co-operative status were key factors in winning the award.

Fonterra Shareholders’ Council Chair Duncan Coull, who collected the award, says farmers should take real pride in this special recognition for their co-op.

“Our farmer shareholders set themselves high standards, and it’s their daily hard work and commitment that drives the success of the co-op. I also want to recognise the energy and contribution of our staff in helping build a co-op that returns such value to shareholders, local communities and the New Zealand economy.”

Cooperative Business New Zealand represents the growing business sector of co-operatives, mutuals and societies which employ more than 48,000 Kiwis and generates over NZ$43 billion a year in revenues for the NZ economy. That’s almost 20% of this country’s GDP while almost one-in-three Kiwis is currently served by a co-operative, mutual or society as a member.

Chair Jonathan Lee says this year’s nominees and recipients were exceptional and reflected the best of co-operative values. The 2017 awards featured a new category – Co-operation Amongst Co-operatives.

The 2017 Cooperative Business New Zealand Award Winners are:

  • Co-operative Business of the Year – Fonterra Co-operative Group
  • Co-operative Leader of the Year – Neil Cowie, CEO Mitre 10
  • Co-operation Amongst Co-operatives – Oliver O’Neill,  CFO Ruralco
  • Outstanding Co-operative Contribution – Brian Cameron, co-operative
  • Enduring Service Award – SBS Bank (100+ years category), established
  • Enduring Service Award – LIC (100+ years category), established 1909
  • Enduring Service Award – Foodstuffs NI (75+ years category),
    established 1922
  • Enduring Service Award – NZPM Group (50+ years category),
    established 1964

Co-operative Business NZ Chief Executive Craig Presland paid tribute to the
award recipients:

Co-operative Business of the Year – Fonterra Co-operative Group

Mr Presland says Fonterra had achieved a stunning financial turnaround over the past 12 to 18 months.

“With its 2016/17 payout forecast to be at least 50% up on the year before, this injects an additional $3.6 billion into the NZ economy and will benefit many fellow co-operatives significantly.

“Over this period, Fonterra has completed a comprehensive co-operative governance review and raised its profile with the New Zealand public so that it is now better understood as a member-owned co-operative and not a corporate.

“It has also continued to generously support New Zealanders within the spirt of Concern for Community, a key co-operative principle. Its Milk for Schools programme, which is now in its fifth year, is the largest social responsibility programme ever driven by a Kiwi commercial business. The $10 million plus a year initiative currently benefits more than 140,000 kiwi
kids each school day.”

Co-operative Leader of the Year – Neil Cowie, CEO Mitre 10

Mr Presland says Neil Cowie has shown outstanding co-operative leadership in recent years.

“Neil truly believes in the spirit of co-operation where the big help the small, the old mentor the young and where a co-operative spirit encourages sustained collaboration, innovation and change.

“He has encouraged several initiatives that have supported local communities and has also driven improved member economic participation and financial benefits.  Neil represented and promoted Mitre 10 as a co-operative with success at a recent international forum.

“Over the 2016/17 year, Mitre 10 moved into a purpose-built Support Centre in Albany, a project which he led for three years, and has driven value and improvements in the areas of co-operative governance training, capital re-structuring, health safety, technology and marketing,” he says.

Co-operation Amongst Co-operatives – Oliver O’Neill, CFO Ruralco

Mr Presland says Co-operation Amongst Co-operatives is a key co-operative principle, including establishing and developing joint supply agreements, lowering costs through joint procurement initiatives, and the sharing of resources and information.

“Oliver is passionate about driving collaboration amongst our members and, last year, delivered cost savings for fellow co-ops across a range of products and services, these including farm fuel, electricity, general farm supplies, Ruralco card deals and the purchase of vehicles.

“His efforts in driving lower electricity prices, for example, involved a great deal of patience and tenacity, as well as expert knowledge of tariffs, peak/off peak rates and varying price points for volume usage.”

Outstanding Co-operative Contribution – Brian Cameron

Ashburton farmer and irrigation pioneer, Brian Cameron was the visionary behind the formation of the NZ Agricultural Cooperatives Association, now known as Cooperative Business NZ, back in 1982.

Craig Presland describes Mr Cameron as “a true legend within New Zealand’s co-operative economy in the modern era.”

“While chairing our fledgling membership organisation for almost two decades, Brian insisted that kiwi co-operatives and mutuals be represented, protected and supported by separate legislation.

“Due in large part to Brian’s leadership and perseverance, extensive legal
work was done during the 1990s, culminating in the Cooperative Companies Act
1996. It was an innovative piece of legislation which has generated
considerable overseas interest.  It has been highly successful with its low
compliance costs and commercial focus enabling co-operatives to grow and
take a significant and influential place in the economy and wider society.

“In addition, Brian has been the key founder of Irrigation NZ back in 1978.
This industry body supports more than 50 separate irrigation schemes and
played a pivotal role in the establishment of two large schemes in the Mid
Canterbury region. Brian has also served on the board of PPCS (now known as
Silver Fern Farms) from 1981-2001, while he was fully involved in the
formation of Ravensdown Fertiliser Co-op and Electricity Ashburton Co-op,”
Mr Presland says.


About Cooperative Business NZ

  • Promotes the co-operative and mutual business model;
  • Encourages and supports New Zealand co-operative and mutual enterprise;
  • Acts as a representative association for those engaged as co-operatives and mutuals;
  • Promotes discussion and cooperation with decision-makers at all levels of government designed to further the interests of co-operatives and mutuals;
  • Facilitates and coordinates services, expertise and research in support of the co-operative and mutual business model;
  • Collects, verifies, and publishes relevant information relating to co-operative and mutual enterprise.


For more information, please contact:

Craig Presland, Chief Executive

DDI           09 539 5482

M              021 800 387



Jonathan Lee, Chair

DDI           09 522 3545

M              027 473 7784



Level 3, 25 Teed St, Newmarket, Auckland 1023 | PO Box 9582, Newmarket, Auckland 1149 |