Rowe hopes to make board

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Gareth Rowe, of Walkaway, is standing for District 1 election.
Camera IconGareth Rowe, of Walkaway, is standing for District 1 election. Credit: Justine Rowe

Gareth Rowe, of Geraldton, hopes to represent District 1.

Why are you standing for election?

The recent survey conducted by CBH indicated that the membership had a strong opinion that some new board members should be appointed. CBH is significant to all WA grain growers and more precious than many recognise. If I did not offer to stand and farmers want some change but were not given some choice in the matter, I would feel that it was a missed opportunity. I come from the standpoint of a hard-working farmer who understands the significance of CBH.

What experience do you bring to the table?

I have built my own farm business from scratch, along the way adapting and changing as circumstances dictated, never being afraid to make changes but always with an eye on where I wanted to get to.

So I am a farmer, a businessman, and probably had more exposure than most farmers to the challenges of running a number of different businesses, and along the way have been involved with some great boards.

My family are also interested in farming, so my values are grounded in good current commercial farm practice with significant importance placed on the value to future generations. I come to CBH with a fresh pair of eyes.

I have never indicated before my willingness to take on this job, but do believe that I can put something back into the co-operative at a time when it needs it.

What changes do you hope to make on the board and at CBH?

This is a big question as ultimately any board is charged with risk management, fiscal diligence and fiducial responsibility aligned to the constitution under which it operates. I believe it is naive to assume that any new board member could straight away be presumptive in believing they understand all the checks and balances that go on in running a business as significant as CBH.

What I do want to achieve though is clarity and transparency, making sure that the company has a clear strategy aligned to its purpose so it truly serves its membership, and develops and evolves as conditions dictate. At the heart of this, CBH needs to be pre-eminent in storage and handling. It must drive efficiencies and cost reduction so that its farmers can export their grain onto the world market and compete with the lowest cost base to their advantage. Make no mistake, the grain growers of WA have to be low-cost producers.

I stand much more as a business strategist understanding the needs of farmers, as first and foremost, I am one.

What are your thoughts on Australian Grains Champion’s attempt to corporatise CBH?

Clearly there are disenfranchised members who feel that CBH has lost its way and that there is insufficient reward for members as they leave the industry.

The other side to this is that the constitution is clear it stands for current and future grain growers of WA, so in the end an attempt to corporatise CBH crosses over the fiducial responsibility of CBH and its board. It is another question whether it is time to change.

Unfortunately the review “Your CBH Your Choice” appears to be a reactive response to the AGC’s bid. More constructive thought is needed to truly examine the feedback from the members of this significant investment and create a strategy which takes the membership forward. There needs to be recognition that the equity of CBH and the value to its members, through efficiency of delivery, has to credit the membership. If this balance of value and efficiency is not met I am sure there will be further approaches made.

What is your view on CBH investing outside of WA?

If CBH genuinely feels that it is best to serve its members by continuing to integrate businesses vertically, there has to be a recognition of where the investment is coming from. There are those who just need a truly efficient supply to market and do not want to participate in further investment which takes time to create a return. I am not clear that everyone understands this.

Should smaller sites be closed to increase efficiency across the network?

A good start to resolving this would be to have price transparency so the true costs are recognised.

Final comments

Good commercial farmers rightly expect that CBH should be able to deliver best practice world-class storage and handling which supports them in maintaining the low-cost structure they need to compete in the world export market.

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