Fon­terra direc­tor will step down

South Waikato News - - RURAL DELIVERY - By GERALD PID­DOCK

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."

Photo: CHRIS HILLOCK

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.

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