Historic changes to CBH’s board structure — set to be voted on by members at the annual general meeting early next year in Perth — have been largely welcomed by the co-operative’s grower members. CBH chairman Simon Stead last week outlined the approach the board would take to implement proposed governance changes if two motions — one about term limits and the other on board composition — were voted in by members at the next CBH AGM. The detail comes after CBH wrapped up a lengthy review of its corporate governance in October following a period of serious infighting earlier this year. Changes include reducing the board size from 12 to 10 by eliminating four grower-director board positions and replacing them with two Statewide grower-director roles. Term limits would be introduced, meaning each of those 10 directors — which would include three independent directors — could serve for a maximum of three terms, or nine years. The board supports the changes and will ask growers to vote for them at AGM. Esperance grower Belinda Lay said she believed two grower-directors caught in the crossfire of the changes “should be commended”. If the term limits were approved, Bruce Rock farmer Kevin Fuchsbichler would lose the seat he has held on the CBH board for nearly 14 years in 2022. That same year, Mukinbudin farmer Jeff Seaby’s seat would be dissolved and transformed into a Statewide director position — meaning he would have to compete against growers from across WA to retain his seat. “For them (Mr Fuchsbichler and Mr Seaby) to still be a part of the process just makes them really brave and strong in their conviction of doing the right thing for the members of CBH,” Ms Lay said. “I think the whole governance review has been a brave thing for them (the board) to undertake. “CBH has been very thorough and given growers plenty of chance to make comment.” Cunderdin farmer Ashley Teakle said he agreed with both proposals to introduce term limits and reduce the number of directors on the board. “I have always believed that smaller boards can act more dynamically and achieve better outcomes,” he said. “I think smaller boards can react quicker and get the required outcomes rather than larger, unwieldy boards. “I am definitely in favour of setting term limits. What you may lose in a very experienced director, you gain in board renewal and keeping directors and ideas fresh. “If it is done right and you stagger your retirements, you do not lose all that experience in one hit.” Ongerup farmer Rick Parsons said he believed they were “great changes” which would go a long way towards making sure CBH remained a co-operative. “I think one grower director per zone and then the two extras on top is good,” he said. “I think it was a review that had to happen after the shambles that happened earlier this year, so I think it is great that the board was proactive about it. “The longer we can keep CBH a co-operative the better.” Esperance farmer Chris Reichstein said he believed board reform had been “long overdue” and CBH had shown “good leadership” by conducting the governance review. “I think the reduction in term limits is a great idea, and changing two of the roles to Statewide is very good as well,” he said. “I think it will stop directors thinking on a zone basis and gets them thinking on a whole of network way, which they should be anyway. “I have been keen to see some change at the board level.” In contrast, Jerramungup farmer Rex Parsons said he didn’t believe governance was the biggest issue CBH should be focusing on. “I don’t have a problem with the changes but I do think the past system has worked very well,” he said. Latham farmer Dylan Hirsch said he believed the changes were “pretty well thought out” and reducing the board size and introducing term limits “makes a lot of sense”. He said it was essential to maintain the “basic fundamental structure” of the board by keeping the “majority of directors as growers”. However, Mr Hirsch said he didn’t believe CBH needed to have the four member director election districts and could do away with them all together. “In this day and age it is important to be flexible and dynamic and I think having a large board is a bit prohibitive,” he said. “For a modern, multibillion dollar company... I don’t think it is 100 per cent necessary to have zone representation. “I would have been fine to hear them say they had abandoned the zones but I understand why they have kept retained it to a degree.” Esperance farmers Charlotte Dellavedova said she admired CBH for “going through a difficult process” and completing the governance review. “Apathy in board members, especially in co-operatives, is endemic,” she said. “So to actually drive a major change like this is incredibly difficult in the face of that apathy. “Tackling governance is an issue many boards avoid... and they have done it.” CBH members will vote on the changes at the AGM at Optus Stadium on February 25. I think the whole governance review has been a brave thing for them (the board) to undertake.