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Farmers Must Ask Hard Questions Of Fonterra

ACT MP and dairy farmer Penny Webster today called on farmers to demand a full explanation of Mike Smith's concerns at Fonterra.

"The Fonterra Board should release Mr Smith from the convention that would inhibit him from explaining to the Shareholders' Council exactly what he is alarmed about.

"Farmers need to know if management is leading directors by the nose. Are directors divided over whether they govern or let management pull the wool over their eyes? Rumours of a second director's imminent departure should send shockwaves to all farmers.

"The crisis is damaging confidence in New Zealand's biggest company.

"Shareholders should ignore those who blame the tension on `factionalism'. The last thing we want is false harmony.

"If Mr Smith was alarmed by a Board that was `casual', then the Shareholders Council must demand answers to the hard questions, and tell shareholders if they don't get them.

"Mr Smith has very expensive experience of the risks in ambitious overseas investment projects. He would know how critical it is to require gung-ho executives to justify their projects.

"The hype surrounding the merger created euphoria that suffocated criticism and reason. Now that Fonterra is the only employment choice for dairy executives in New Zealand, there is nowhere else for whistle-blowers to move.

"This is far larger than just a dairy farming matter - as New Zealand's largest company, crises at Fonterra affect all New Zealanders.

"The billions of dollars poured down an Australian drain called Ansett should be a lesson to farmers and directors to insist on honesty now, to avoid heartbreak in future," Mrs Webster said.


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