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


Air New Zealand: Capital Raise Deferred

Air New Zealand has decided to defer its planned capital raise to later in 2021 allowing more time to assess the impacts of recent developments on the airline’s path to recovery. 'We’ve seen some clearing of COVID-19 clouds recently, with ... More>>

Commerce Commission: Cartel Conduct Now Punishable By Up To 7 Years’ Jail Time

Cartel conduct can now be punished with a term of imprisonment of up to 7 years, after the Commerce (Criminalisation of Cartels) Amendment Act 2019 came into effect today. Cartel conduct includes price fixing, market allocation and bid rigging (see ... More>>

Stats NZ: Auckland Population May Hit 2 Million In Early 2030s

Auckland’s population may rise from about 1.7 million currently to 2 million by early next decade, Stats NZ said today. “Auckland will likely have the highest average annual growth of New Zealand’s 16 regions over the next 30 years, from ... More>>

Air New Zealand: Business Travellers Return To The Skies In Record Numbers

After a year of talking to a computer, Kiwis are leaving the office to re-connect with their clients, suppliers, and staff. New figures released by Air New Zealand show domestic business and corporate travel has defied global trends by returning ... More>>

PwC: Outcome Of Review Into Air New Zealand Gas Turbines Business

Air New Zealand has received the report into its Gas Turbines business from independent external advisers PwC. Air New Zealand Chairman Dame Therese Walsh says the report identified a range of effective controls in the Gas Turbines revenue contracting ... More>>

LPG Association: Renewable LPG Achieves Emissions Budgets With No Need To Ban New LPG Connections

Renewable LPG can supply New Zealand’s LPG needs and achieve the emissions reductions proposed by the Climate Commission without the need to ban new connections, a new study shows. The investigation, by leading consultancy Worley, was prepared for the ... More>>

Commerce: House Values Continue To Climb As New Government Measures Announced

The Government’s new initiatives to quell the rocketing housing market were announced last week, just as house prices hit a new high for the end of March. The average value increased 7.8% nationally over the past three-month period, up from the 6.8% ... More>>