November 21, 2017

Statement from John Wilson: Michael Spaans

Sadly, today our Co-operative has lost one of our strongest people with former Director Michael Spaans passing away last night. He is survived by his wife Kristina and children Olivia, Logan and Harvey. 

Earlier this year, Michael decided to step down from the Fonterra Board and focus on trying to recover from cancer. He and I go back many years and I saw him approach his illness in the same way he approached everything in life. He was resolute and determined and did his utmost to continue on as normal. It was a brave fight and I am sure that will not surprise those of you who knew him. 

Michael was a proud dairy farmer with a passion for our Co-op and our industry. I have often talked about the importance of having leaders developing within our ranks and Michael is a very fine example. Michael served on the New Zealand Dairy Group Shareholder Council, before joining the Fonterra Shareholders' Council at the time our Co-op was formed. He was also part of the first intake for the Fonterra Governance Development Programme, and later built his governance experience outside the industry including directorships with ASB Bank, Shoof International, DairyNZ, Manuka SA, Waikato Innovation Park, Innovation Waikato and Ospri New Zealand.

He then brought this experience, along with a huge level of energy and commitment to our Board, and won the respect of his fellow Directors and farmers for his willingness to listen and engage. Michael was a man who knew the importance of detail. He made sure that he knew this business extremely well, understood our strategy and was completely across the detail of the numbers. He always looked for constructive solutions and thought deeply about our Co-op’s governance and his role in the evolution of our business.

His insights and experience — along with his genuine interest and inquisitive mind — were also invaluable on Fonterra's Milk Price Panel, the Co-operative Relations Committee, and the Audit and Finance Committee.

As late as last month, Michael was working for the betterment of New Zealand farmers in his capacity as Chairman of DairyNZ. He has also remained an ambassador for Fonterra on the international stage and in Wellington, recently speaking at the United Nations in New York on behalf of the Global Dairy Platform and all farmers.

We have lost a close friend, leader and an advocate of our industry much too soon. Our thoughts and deep gratitude for all that he contributed go to his family.