Fonterra director will step down
Jim van der Poel has lived and breathed Fonterra for more than a decade.
But after serving on the board of the country’s biggest company for 12 years, the Waikato farmer will step down as a director at Fonterra’s annual meeting in November.
Van der Poel was immensely satisfied with the role he played in Fonterra’s development over the past decade.
But it is the people he worked with that he will miss the most, he said at his home south of Hamilton.
‘‘I’ve worked with some fantastic people and made some lifelong friends in the process and had the opportunity to be part of the critical decision- making process through the formation of Fonterra, then through the early years of Fonterra and playing my small part in what it is today.’’
Van der Poel was up for reelection this year and his decision gave other potential candidates the opportunity to consider the role.
It had been a huge commitment and priority in his life over the past 12 years.
‘‘ Fonterra dominates your diary. It takes precedence and there are some family events you miss because you have got a Fonterra commitment.’’
He acknowledged his family and wife, Sue, who accommodated that commitment.
‘‘They worked around me and I’m hugely grateful for that.’’
It was a role he took extremely seriously because Fonterra had 10,500 shareholders relying on him and the rest of the board to make good decisions on their behalf.
‘‘Their income relies on you, their family’s wealth and income relies on you and their investments rely on the decisions you make,’’ he said.
Van der Poel was also mindful of the impact the co-operative’s actions had on the wider dairy industry because Fonterra effectively set the milk price.
This is because everyday farmers were making decisions based on the information given to them by the board.
He believed the co- operative was in good heart, despite the drop in prices this season.
Fonterra was on the way to becoming a truly global dairy company thanks to its brand reputation, reach and ability to participate in the huge growth that was coming for dairy.
‘‘I honestly believe that its best years are in front of it, not behind it. It’s got such a unique and fantastic position globally.’’
The notion of just being a farmer never entered van der Poel’s mind because it was in his personality to keep pushing himself.
‘‘I like to challenge myself. I have always been like that and I like pushing the boundaries.
‘‘I’ve always tried to step outside my comfort zone and challenge myself and I think you grow as a person when you do that."
He has yet to decide what he will do once he steps down.
He is fortunate to have great staff and partners in his business and was not needed in the day-today running of his farms.
But his next new challenge would be waiting out there. ‘‘I’ll look for something else. ‘‘It’s not in my personality to sit around and do nothing."
Moving on: Jim van der Poel, who will step down after 12 years on the board, talks about his experiences and is looking for future challenges.