Russel Norman blogged last week about the conflicts of interest arising from regional councillors accepting Rugby World Cup tickets from Fonterra and about Horizons Regional Council’s plans to invest in the dairy sector – a sector they are supposed to be regulating.
This week there is news from Taranaki that one of Fonterra’s new directors, David McLeod, also holds the position of chair of Taranaki Regional Council. Cr McLeod claims that should he retain the chairman’s position, he will declare his interest and stand aside when the regional council discusses matters involving Fonterra.
Regional councils make significant decisions about water management and land uses affecting water. When a regional council chair is also making key decisions about the direction of New Zealand’s largest corporation, there is a potential conflict of interest. Even if Cr McLeod does manage to keep his interests completely separate and stand aside from specific council business involving Fonterra, he is naïve to think that the public will not view his double involvement as creating a conflict of interest.
Regional council policies, plans and rules may affect Fonterra shareholders. Continuing as council chair risks creating a perception that the regional council will be a dairying-friendly environmental regulator.