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Call for hold on Westland Milk sale

21st July 2019

Chris Leitch, Leader

Social Credit Party leader Chris Leitch is calling on the sale of Westland Milk to Chinese company Yili to be put on hold pending an approach to the Government by Westland Milk for funding assistance.

On Thursday, Regional Economic Development and Associate Finance Minister Shane Jones claimed that "I, as steward of the Provincial Growth Fund, was never approached by Westland directors as to whether or not we could look at restructuring and help shore up the company".

More and more the sale appears to have been an orchestrated programme to secure the sale of the company lock, stock and milk vat.

The option of a full sale of the company was never discussed with shareholders as part of the Project Horizon capital restructuring investigation that the directors undertook.

Equally none of the other expressions of interest were ever presented to shareholders for consideration.

The only one was the current deal, and farmers were basically left with a take-it-or-leave-it option.

An Independent Taskforce should be set up to urgently investigate those other options, either by the Government or the Commerce Commission, and the Government approached to assist with the capital restructuring of the company either through the Provincial Growth Fund or by way of Reserve Bank finance.

That option should be part of those considered by the Independent Taskforce and a number of options then presented to the farmer shareholders for consideration.

That could easily be accomplished within a month and a new vote taken on the company's future.

This is not your ordinary run-of-the-mill company. As a cooperative the farmer shareholders have a great deal more at stake than investors in a normal company.

As such, the action I am suggesting should not be taken as an avenue that would be open to shareholders ,or be instigated by government, in any other company, but this is a special case.

In the event that a suitable option is not found that keeps the company in New Zealand hands, the sale to Yili can proceed. If it really wants to own Westland Milk, it will wait.

I will be visiting the West Coast this week for a series of public meetings and will be making further suggestions on Westland Milk’s future.

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