Top Scoops

Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | Scoop News | Wellington Scoop | Community Scoop | Search


Theo Spierings - Fat Cat with the cream

Theo Spierings - Fat Cat with the cream

Dr Lynley Tulloch

The recent news that Fonterra chief executive Theo Spierings was paid $8.32 million in 2017 has caused a stir. This huge salary seems incongruous with recent stories of farmer debt, suicide and struggle in New Zealand. Fonterra is a multinational dairy cooperative which is owned by approximately 10,500 New Zealand dairy farmers.

So why are farmers struggling financially while Spierings skims the cream? (pun intended). Winston Peters has it right when he calls Spierings a "fat cat". He is the highest paid CEO in New Zealand. Justifications that his pay is based on “independent , international benchmarking” are worthless in the face of massive job cuts for Fonterra staff in 2015.

It’s hard to reconcile the $160,000 NZ dollar weekly pay packet Spierings receives with news of rural debt. Agricultural debt in New Zealand has risen over $60 billion in the last few years, mainly in the dairy sector.

With growing disparity in New Zealand between those at the higher and lower end of the pay scale this seems like a slap in the face. It certainly doesn’t have the wholesome feel of a child with a milk moustache that Fonterra tries to promote.

A quote by Barack Obama in 2008 springs to mind, “I think all of us here today would acknowledge that we’ve lost that sense of shared prosperity”.

The corporate greed evident in Fonterra’s economic conduct flies in the face of shared prosperity. It’s time to take a serious look at the issue of CEO reward. Not only is this situation patently unfair for hard working farmers, but it also does not account for externalised costs of our waterways, native bush and animal lives.

For all of us to prosper in New Zealand we need to have a shared sense of where we are going. I don’t think the increasing intensification of dairying alongside its corporatisation is a direction that is going to lead to shared prosperity. In fact, it will likely bring us to our knees. It probably already has.

To begin with our ecosystems will spiral into further decline. Dairy farming in New Zealand is unsustainable on an environmental level. 40 percent of New Zealand’s once biologically diverse and rugged landscape has been converted to farmland since European colonisation. This has had a dire impact on our native wildlife, and many species have become extinct. This is most readily apparent in the dire state of our waterways.

Agriculture in New Zealand, particularly dairy farming, is one of the main culprits of our polluted waterways. The price of waterways pollution comes even too high for Spierings to pay. Waterway pollution in New Zealand has been caused by dairy intensification allowing increasing sediment, nutrient runoff (nitrogen and phosphorus) and E.Coli (from livestock excrement) into our waterways.

A recent Government report entitled Our Fresh Water 2017 found that nearly three quarters of native freshwater fish species are threatened or at risk of extinction. A third of freshwater invertebrates and a third of freshwater plants are also at risk. Many of New Zealand’s native species are endemic and their loss is tragic.

But it’s not only native animals that suffer in dairying. With recent international news coverage of bobby calf cruelty in New Zealand , it’s not difficult to think of Spiering’s profits as blood money. With an increasing public awareness of animal welfare in dairying in New Zealand, the deaths of these innocents (over 2 million a year) is becoming increasingly unpalatable.

We cannot prosper as a society or country if we go beyond our ecological and social limits. New Zealand is experiencing water pollution, biodiversity loss, poverty, increasing gap between the rich and poor and systemic animal abuse in farming. It’s time to revisit our values and work toward and inclusive society that everyone (animals and humans) can prosper in.


© Scoop Media

Top Scoops Headlines


Forgetting Citizenship: Australia Suspends Flights From India

As India is being devastated by COVID-19 cases that have now passed a daily rate of 400,000, affluent and callous Australia has taken the decision to suspend all flights coming into the country till mid-month. The decision was reached by the Morrison ... More>>

Digitl: UK Spy Chief: “The West Has To Go It Alone On Tech"

“Cybersecurity is an increasingly strategic issue that needs a whole-nation approach. The rules are changing in ways not always controlled by government. More>>

The Conversation: From Five Eyes To Six? Japan’s Push To Join The West’s Intelligence Alliance

Craig Mark , Kyoritsu Women's University As tensions with China continue to grow, Japan is making moves to join the “Five Eyes” intelligence-sharing alliance. This week, Japan’s ambassador to Australia, Shingo Yamagami, told The Sydney Morning ... More>>

The Conversation: Without The Right Financial Strategies, NZ’s Climate Change Efforts Will Remain Unfinished Business

When it comes to climate change, money talks. Climate finance is critical for enabling a low-emissions transition. This involves investment and expenditure — public, private, domestic and transnational — that demonstrably contributes to climate ... More>>

Dr Terrence Loomis: Does Petroleum Industry Spying Really Matter?

Opinion: Nicky Hager’s latest revelations about security firm Thompson and Clark’s ‘spying’ on climate activists and environmental organisations on behalf of the oil and gas industry and big GHG emitters makes entertaining reading. But it does ... More>>

Mixed Sight: New Zealand, The Five Eyes And China

The Five Eyes arrangement between the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand has always resembled a segregated, clandestine club. Focused on the sharing of intelligence between countries of supposedly like mind, it has shown that ... More>>