The B+LNZ Board has undertaken and considered analysis of the impact of the weighted vote compared to ‘one farmer one vote’ counting over the last ten years, following support for a remit received during the 2023 annual meeting process.
Hamish Carswell had proposed a remit that:
The impact of the “weighted vote” on decisions is reviewed and reported back to farmer levy payers in order to understand how this mechanism influences outcomes and if on balance, it has a material influence that potentially leads to inequities in decisions. In particular the influence of the government-owned farms on voting outcomes must be reviewed and addressed. This may lead to a requirement for the B+LNZ Constitution to be amended to reflect the risk and inequity involved in weighted voting.
Sixty-six percent of farmers who voted were in favour of the remit.
Following is more information about the analysis undertaken as a result and the Board’s decision.
To undertake the analysis B+LNZ looked at Director elections since 2012 and also the recent voting on remits.
There have been 13 Director elections across B+LNZ’s six electoral regions since 2012, so this was by far the most comprehensive and therefore most logical data set to analyse. It also made sense to examine because Directors make B+LNZ’s key decisions.
The analysis found that in all but two of the 13 elections the weighted vote and the one-for-one vote would have delivered the same result.
In the two instances where a one-for-one vote would have delivered a different result:
- the weighted vote was 53 percent for the winning candidate whereas the one-for-one vote was 47 percent for the winning candidate, with a participation rate of 19 percent
- the weighted vote was 68 percent for the winning candidate whereas the one-for-one vote was 49 percent for the winning candidate, with a participation rate of 18 percent.
Voting on the 2023 annual meeting remits was also analysed and in all cases the remits were supported by the majority across both one-for-one and weighted voting.
The livestock numbers declared by the ten largest farming businesses on the B+LNZ database equate to 3 to 4 percent of total sheep, beef and dairy cow numbers. The Board therefore noted, as outlined in the original response to the remit, that no single farming entity holds a large enough proportion of stock numbers to influence B+LNZ decision-making and B+LNZ is not subject to any Government influence from the weighted vote.
However, analysis indicated that higher turnouts can give one-for-one votes more influence in terms of overall results – in the two instances above where one-for-one voting would have given a different result, turnout was among the lowest in the last ten years. It therefore remains important for farmers to get out and vote, no matter how big their farming operation, to ensure their voices are heard. B+LNZ will continue to look at new ways to encourage all farmers to vote.
It was noted that other farmer-owned entities also have weighted voting rights. These include Farmlands, Silver Fern Farms, Alliance, Ballance, Ravensdown and Fonterra.
The Board is also working through its detailed responses to other remits received as part of the annual meeting process, including a review of the Farmer Council role and a review of B+LNZ’s advocacy and consultation approaches, and noted that these reviews are also ways to provide farmers with greater transparency around decision-making.
The Board’s decision
The Board has therefore determined that no changes to the B+LNZ Constitution should be made in relation to weighted voting.
B+LNZ is working through how to ensure we have the best possible view of farmer opinion to support decision-making, and how to increase voting participation by farmers.