Recently appointed Fonterra CEO Miles Hurrell (Dan Cook: Radio NZ)

The Bulletin: Shareholders give Fonterra a serve

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Farmer shareholders give Fonterra a serve, Czech drug dealer breaks his silence, and Auckland Councillor attendance rates are in focus.

Fonterra management has been given a serve by their shareholders, in the form of a brutal financial report. Covered on the NZ Herald, the Shareholders Council report says that the dairy cooperative has “failed to deliver meaningful returns” to farmer shareholders over and above the cost of capital. That’s not to say that Fonterra hasn’t made money – it’s made heaps. But for every $1 farmer shareholders put into Fonterra when it was first set up in 2001, they could have got a better return on that dollar by simply chucking it into the sharemarket.

How did that go down with the farmers? Not particularly well, as this audio Radio NZ report from the meeting outlines. Around 400 farmers were there in Putaruru for the meeting, and the mood reportedly ranged from reluctant acceptance to anger. One outcome of it all is that Fonterra is now looking at asset sales, reports Radio NZ. The disastrous investment in Chinese company Beingmate is being openly talked about as a selldown option. Other options were being kept under wraps, but the China Farms operation hasn’t been performing well either.

The value adding stuff is something that Rod Oram (recently named Business columnist of the year) has written about a few times – here’s a recent one on Newsroom. The piece outlines how some farmers have been feeling for a while that the business should be split up – one part handling commodities, and the other part handling value-adding. That would be a significant about-turn from the original point of Fonterra, which was to be a completely integrated cooperative.

And one final interesting detail about it all – new Fonterra boss Miles Hurrell has been in the CEO position for less that a year, and inherited a lot of problems. But a report from Stuff indicates he’s paid “substantially less” that his predecessor, the eight million dollar man Theo Spierings. That will surely generate Mr Hurrell a little bit of goodwill among farmers, with more potential pain down the road.


Czech drug smuggler Karel Sroubek has broken his silence, hitting out at the deputy leader of the National party Paula Bennett, reports Stuff. Using parliamentary privilege, Ms Bennett asked pointed questions about a burglary that had took place at Mr Sroubek’s estranged wife’s house. Mr Sroubek said any implication he had anything to do with an alleged burglary was “completely without foundation.”

More detail has also come out about Mr Sroubek’s finances, which is covered in the Stuff story. There has also been a revelation that the minister ‘only’ spent an hour assessing his decision to not deport Mr Sroubek, but there hasn’t been a lot of clarity around what the normal amount of time to spend on such a decision would be. It can sometimes take me an hour to decide what to cook for dinner, but some people are more focused than that.


The attendance rates of Auckland Councillors is under scrutiny in this morning’s NZ Herald column by Simon Wilson. It all opens with a rather curious detail – Cr Greg Sayers was snapped in Rarotonga while ‘on Council business’ – Cr Sayers said it was an error and that he immediately contacted Council staff when he realised the mistake, so that his status could be changed to on leave. It’s part of a wider debate going on within Council at the moment as to just what exactly being away on Council business means. Councillors get to make their own definitions on that, and don’t have to file reports after the fact either.


Xero’s latest numbers will make for very interesting reading for investors. The NZ Herald reports that their subscriber numbers are going great, and most other financial metrics are too. They’ve also made more progress in the North American market, which is a key target. But they’re still making big half-yearly losses – the most recent being $28.6 million.


The new government has started their own reforms of the Resource Management Act, reports Interest. To start with, they’re going to reverse a bunch of changes the National government made. David Parker, the environment minister, said further changes would be introduced next year. Either way, the RMA seems to have this uncanny ability to provoke really long, impenetrably technical stoushes, so expect this to bubble away for probably the next few years.


Secondary school teachers still aren’t happy at all with their latest pay offer, reports Newshub. They say it has barely moved at all, and strike action is still very much on the cards. Speaking of which, primary teacher strikes are still scheduled to go ahead next week, rolling through the country with each region scheduled for a full day. If you’ve got kids at school, you can check what day the strike will be for you here.


This is a fascinating piece from the NBR on one of New Zealand’s great media hustlers – Philip Duncan from Weatherwatch. You’ll almost certainly have heard him on the radio at some stage or other giving meteorological colour to weather stories. Anyway, he’s also involved in a permanent battle with MetService and NIWA over weather data, which he says behaves monopolistically, in the manner of Telecom in the 90s. And he’s managed to pick up some serious investment money for Weatherwatch too, so interesting times could be coming up in the world of commercial weather forecasting.


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Right now on The Spinoff: Kera Sherwood O’Regan writes about the need to do more to bring people with disabilities into democracy. Rebecca Watson calls on PM Jacinda Ardern to stand up to China and speak up about their Xinjiang detention camps. Alex Casey has written a weird and wonderful piece about celebrities eating at normal, non-celebrity type places. And I spoke to Dr Jo Hawkins, who has just published a book about the pervasive commercialisation of the ANZAC legend.


I just love this longread from the Guardian, which is basically the real-life version of a hokey sports movie. Dulwich Hamlet play in English football’s 7th tier, and last year they were facing being shut down so that property developers could tear their stadium apart. But could the plucky club be saved by an unlikely cast of characters? I swear I’m not making the plot of this up – here’s an excerpt:

“Dulwich’s seventh-tier league is sponsored by a company that makes glue and patio grout. Certain traditions would be unworkable at grander levels of the game, not least the adorable moment at half-time when rival supporters pootle past one another, swapping ends, in order to always be behind the goal their strikers will target. Inside the more palatial stadiums of the Premier League, there’s no chance Dulwich fans would get close enough to distract an away-team goalie the way they like to – by reading back to him, for 90 minutes, his old Facebook posts. Gutted you missed that parcel, mate.”


Boxing organisations are distancing themselves from charity and corporate boxing, after the death of a Christchurch man in the ring. Don Rowe of The Spinoff, no stranger to the ring himself, has written about this, and says it’s not a sport that can be done without total commitment, and total awareness of the risk. As such, he’s not convinced there is a place for any sort of charity boxing scene.

And there’s two massive international contests on this week, but you’ll have to get up early for both. The White Ferns open their World Cup campaign against India tomorrow morning at 4am NZT, in what is realistically a must-win match straight away. And on Sunday morning also at 4am, the All Blacks will play England, in what has probably been the most highly anticipated game of rugby since the World Cup. Set your alarms early.


From our partners, World Energy Day has put a spotlight on New Zealand’s sluggish progress towards net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Vector’s Beth Johnson explains why the time is right to accelerate.


That’s it for The Bulletin. If you liked what you read, and know other people who would find it useful, pass on this signup form to them.


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