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Background for newly elected Fonterra Board member Blue Read


17 December 2012

Background for newly elected Fonterra Board member Blue Read

The newly elected Fonterra board member, North Taranaki dairy farmer Blue Read, is a passionate champion for the cooperative business model.

As chairperson of the Cooperative Business New Zealand (CBNZ), Mr Read led New Zealand’s celebration of the UN International Year of Cooperatives. This included a Parliamentary launch, and crowning Ashburton the Cooperative Capital of New Zealand, along with national and international speaking engagements.

CBNZ executive director Ramsey Margolis said there had been a noticeable surge of interest from start-up businesses opting for the cooperative model over the last year. A number of existing businesses were also looking at converting to a cooperative.

“Over the last five years there had been a gradual but steady increase from people wanting to know more about cooperatively owned business,” Mr Margolis said.

“This year, during Blue Read’s tenure as chairperson we’ve had calls from around 150 people of which 25 have progressed to the next stage,” Mr Margolis said. “Urban as well as rural businesses are thinking increasingly about the cooperative model, and new cooperative start-ups include a software company, a community-owned wind generation plant, an energy share group, a hospitality purchasing cooperative, a steam valet service and a translation service.”

“Many of the new cooperatives are rural-based where co-ops have a long and successful history,” Mr Margolis said.

ABOUT COOPERATIVES

Cooperative and mutual businesses play a significant role in the New Zealand economy with $39.4 billion of combined revenues in 2010/11 from the Top 40 NZ cooperatives and mutuals. Collectively cooperatives contribute 3 percent of New Zealand’s GDP.

Fonterra, with 10,500 farmer-members, has annual revenue of $19.8 billion and is New Zealand’s only truly global business.

The three Foodstuffs cooperatives (Auckland, Wellington and South Island) have a combined turnover of $8 billion, making them together the third largest business in the country.

Also among the Top 40 Cooperatives are Dunedin-based meat processing cooperative Silver Fern Farms, which is fifth with $2 billion and provides 7,500 jobs, while further south the Invercargill based meat cooperative, Alliance Group, is sixth largest with revenues of $1.5 billion and provides 5,600 jobs.

These six New Zealand co-ops are in the Global 300 list of the world’s largest cooperatives which have a combined turnover of $NZ1.9 trillion, making them the size of the world’s 9th largest economy. On a global footing, cooperatives worldwide are owned by 1 billion people and employ over 100 million.

Big rural lender, Netherlands-based Rabobank, is a cooperative and the world’s largest rural bank as well as a major agricultural sector lender in New Zealand. With over NZ$1 billion in assets, Rabobank’s AA credit rating is up there with the governments of both New Zealand and Australia.

Collectively, NZ cooperatives and mutuals provide more than 43,000 New Zealanders with jobs – but not all are based in the rural heartland.

With vehicle repair shops as its members, Capricorn Society has members in New Zealand, Australia and South Africa – truly a tri-nations cooperative – and has a turnover of more than $1 billion.

Started in 1928 and now with 137,000 members, The Co-operative Bank has the largest number of members of all New Zealand cooperatives.

ends

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