Don’t be complacent, use your vote for a bright future

Countryman
CBH members will vote at the annual general meeting.
Camera IconCBH members will vote at the annual general meeting. Credit: Danella Bevis

What is it with growers and CBH — is it some form of love-hate relationship that goes on for an eternity?

Is it that CBH is an easy target and whipping boy, or is it that growers genuinely feel a sense of ownership with some wanting their voices to be heard in shaping its future?

It seems that reading the rural media and listening to ABC that there is a small vocal minority who wish to retain CBH as it is.

During the last decade or so, the workings, politicisation and dysfunction of the board have been ever-present in the media and any discussions around CBH.

This dysfunction got to a point where a grower director resigned prior to the last AGM, another resigned at the first meeting after having been re-elected and finally another was removed from the board by a vote of members.

Despite the dysfunction, the co-op has remained successful in its core business in storage and handling, but at what cost?

The dysfunction — which hasn’t reflected well on farmers and CBH — has come at a human and financial cost with the loss of key staff, major decisions taking longer to implement (the roll out of the network strategy for one) and management not having a clear direction, which can have the effect of ceding more power to management.

Last year, the board took the bold step of undertaking a governance review by looking at successful and failed co-operatives, with a common theme being that successful co-ops review and improve their governance.

CBH engaged with growers in an open and transparent manner, listening to what they wanted. The upshot of this was a range of proposals with the support of growers.

This has been a genuine attempt by CBH to put and end to many years of turmoil and dysfunction.

I struggle to understand why some of the old guard are so reticent to accept change, especially when some have been closely involved with CBH during the recent past.

We cant keep looking back at what was, but look at the environment we are now in and to the future.

Some say the current proposal to reduce farmer board positions is the thin end of the wedge to corporatisation. We feel this is a red herring to create fear in growers’ minds.

Twelve directors is considered a very large board by today’s standards. The proposed changes still give a majority of seven grower directors to three independent. The independent directors are vital to the running of CBH for the wealth of experience, skills and rigour they bring.

As farmers, being brilliant at what we do doesn’t necessarily qualify us to run a multi-billion dollar co-op.

Even the best farmers source consultants to improve their performance. Surely this applies to CBH as well.

Hopefully, the change to five zone-based directors and two Statewide directors will result in all directors thinking for the overall benefit of the co-op rather than short-term zone-based vision.

The changes are designed to improve board performance. If they aren’t successful, CBH will again be hamstrung by politicisation, infighting and dysfunction in the future.

We have a chance to move forward and make meaningful change. If this doesn’t happen, what progressive intelligent person with the good of our industry at heart would put their hands up for election?

As the old saying goes, if you keep on doing what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got.

Please use your vote to ensure a brighter future for your co-operative. As a group of agro-politically, non-aligned producers — our only motivation being the best interests of our co-op — we urge you to use your vote to ensure a brighter and more stable future for CBH.

Please don’t be complacent.

Use your vote.

Chris Reichstein, Esperance

Chris Henderson, Lake Varley

Paul O’Meehan, Borden

Clint DellaBosca, Southern Cross

Nick Gillet, Bencubbin

Dylan Hirsch, Latham

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