Video | Agriculture | Confidence | Economy | Energy | Employment | Finance | Media | Property | RBNZ | Science | SOEs | Tax | Technology | Telecoms | Tourism | Transport | Search


Co-operation at the heart of Kiwi business

By Tony Howey, Ravensdown director

As we celebrate the International Day of Co-operatives on 6 July, it’s worth pausing to consider the benefits of this way of organising a business.

We saw this week how co-operatives can come to an end as Westland Co-operative Dairy Company shareholders supported a takeover bid by a Chinese conglomerate.

But it’s also worth thinking about how co-operatives get started. After all, we have many more of them than other western countries.

It’s hard for people to relate to giant businesses with 20,000 shareholders. What’s forgotten is that every co-operative started small – usually with a core of visionaries who believed in building bridges rather than burning them.

The idea is simple and twofold: co-operation pays and the whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts. For example, take a processing and packing farmer-owned company that my family farming operation is involved with. By pooling together, the finances and aggregated skills have led to a multi-million dollar investment in optical sorting and robotics allowing significant efficiencies and enhanced reputation in market. We would have never reaped the benefits if each farmer had tried to go it alone.

New Zealand is incredibly well served by co-operatives. In agriculture, we boast more co-ops than just about any country in the world. When run well, they generate extraordinary returns to New Zealand economically and socially.

The long-term vision, the sustainability commitment, the power of collaboration and the value of people are all characteristics of a co-operative and, of course, are concepts our tangata whenua are very familiar with.

Co-operatives usually start small, but they can change fast. Take, for example, Ravensdown. Having served as a director since 2006, I’ve been part of its transformation - from being a fertiliser seller to becoming a smarter farming solutions company. It’s a shift that’s happened because our farmer shareholders told us it was what they wanted. That’s the power of the co-op – it meets the needs and expectations of its owner-shareholders.

With fertiliser, underuse can impact on what can be created and consumed. Overuse means potential lost nutrients into the waterways or atmosphere. In short, fertiliser can be used smartly or not so smartly and farmers know this. Ravensdown is owned by its farmers so it’s not here to maximise profit at their expense, but to help with responsible use of its products and sometimes that means less is bought or applied.

This co-operative, collaborative approach is the key to success, not only for the shareholders in a co-op but also for our communities, regions and country. We all benefit in many and various ways.

With the passage of time and as new generations of farmers take over farming operations, we must continue this co-operative spirit. Although some of our long-established co-operatives are increasing in size and scale, we must not look at our own businesses in isolation and be fixated about extracting the lowest price on inputs and the maximum price on outputs as the only criteria to do business. The tide should continue to lift us all.

After 13 years on the Ravensdown board, my tenure is coming to an end. It’s been enormously satisfying to have been so actively involved. It’s also something I would strongly recommend to others. Get involved and take a leading role in continuing the long-term vision of sustainable production that brings great value to farmers, growers and the country – your co-operatives need you!

Nominations for director positions at Ravensdown open on 20 July.

About Tony Howey

Through the companies Alpine Fresh Ltd and ViBeri NZ Ltd, Tony grows for arable, vegetable and berry fruit sectors and is on the board of Horticulture NZ and Chair of NZ Gap. He is based in South Canterbury.

© Scoop Media

Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines


The Narrow Divide: New Poll Shows Tight Political Race For SME Votes

In a major turnaround following nearly a decade of MYOB election polls, Labour is currently the preferred political party of New Zealand’s SMEs, with 38% of SME owners and decision makers intending to vote red in the upcoming General Election, ... More>>

Reserve Bank: Further Easing In Monetary Policy Delivered

Tēnā koutou katoa, welcome all. The Monetary Policy Committee agreed to expand the Large Scale Asset Purchase (LSAP) programme up to $100 billion so as to further lower retail interest rates in order to achieve its remit. The eligible assets remain ... More>>

Retail: Post-Lockdown Retail Card Spending Picks Up

The rise in retail card spending was boosted by sales of furniture, hardware, and appliances, Stats NZ said today. “For a third consecutive month, card spending on the long-lasting goods (durables) remained at higher levels than last year, after ... More>>

Contact: Business Drops, New Generation On Hold

New Zealand’s second-largest energy company Contact Energy (‘Contact’) released its full year financial results for the 12 months to 30 June 2020 (‘FY20’) this morning. More>>

Mining: OceanaGold Announces Receipt Of WKP Mining Permit

MELBOURNE, Australia, Aug. 6, 2020 /CNW/ - OceanaGold Corporation (TSX: OGC) (ASX: OGC) (the 'Company') is pleased to announce it has received the mining permit for Wharekirauponga ('WKP') on the North Island of New Zealand. ... More>>


Economy: COVID-19 Lockdown Has Widespread Effects On Labour Market

In the June 2020 quarter, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell to 4.0 percent, down from 4.2 percent last quarter, while underutilisation rose, Stats NZ said today. More>>


NZ Post: New Research By NZ Post Shows Online Shopping Grew 105% In Alert Level 3

New research by NZ Post into how the COVID-19 response has impacted the way Kiwis shop online, shows online shopping increased 105%* when the country moved into Alert Level 3, and may have changed the way Kiwis shop permanently. Online spend peaked ... More>>


Antarctica NZ: Ice-Olation

Antarctica New Zealand is gearing up for a much reduced season on the ice this year and a very different deployment to normal! Before they head to one of the remotest places on the planet, all personnel flying south with the New Zealand programme will ... More>>


QV Valuations: July House Price Index Illustrates Market Resilience

According to the July 2020 QV House Price Index (HPI) results out today , property values recorded a marginal increase, up 0.2% over the month. This is somewhat of a turnaround from June, after the national index edged 0.2% lower. More>>


Property: Queenstown Rents Experience Biggest Drop In Seven Years

Rental prices in the Queenstown-Lakes district saw the biggest annual percentage drop in seven years after falling 28 per cent on June last year, according to the latest Trade Me Rental Price Index. Trade Me Property spokesperson Aaron Clancy said ... More>>

Seismology: The Quiet Earth

As many daily activities came to a halt during lockdown, the Earth itself became quiet, probably quieter than it has been since humans developed the technology to listen in. Seismologists have analysed datasets from more than 300 international ... More>>

RNZ: James Shaw Says Kiwibank, Not Ministers Should Decide On Investors

Climate Change Minister James Shaw says Kiwibank's decision to stop doing business with companies dealing in fossil fuels is the right one. More>>


FMA: Kiwis Confident Financial Markets Will Recover From COVID-19, Plan To Increase Investments

Despite the majority (60%) of investors experiencing losses as a result of COVID-19, the outlook on investing remains positive, according to a Financial Markets Authority (FMA) survey. Most Kiwis (71%) were optimistic that the pandemic will pass eventually ... More>>

FIRST Union: Warehouse Using Covid For Cover As Extensive Restructure Makes Everyone Worse Off

(FIRST Union comments on The Warehouse consultation and proposed restructure) 'Unfortunately the Warehouse have done the disappointing thing and used Covid-19 to justify a bunch of operational business decisions that will leave hundreds of workers without jobs ... More>>