Canterbury farmer and businessman Peter Morrison is the new chairman of Westland Milk Products.

In his first day in the job, he says it will be next season before the payout is back to where it should be.

Outgoing chairman Matt O'Regan announced in October his intention to step down on March 31.

The company has been struggling to turn around a low payout and has come under severe criticism from shareholders. It is currently making redundancies in an attempt to get back on track.

Mr Morrison, a current director, has been a Westland Milk Products shareholder since the co-operative started as an independent dairy company in 2001, supplying milk from farm properties in Canterbury and the West Coast. He was first elected to the board in 2015.

Mr Morrison today acknowledged that Westland had performed poorly in the previous financial year and that its payout was below the break-even line for shareholders and less than competitive than other companies.

However, he said the payout was on the way back up again and, while it would take more than one season to get back to a more competitive position, he was confident in the co-operative's future.

"We have a very strong and capable new chief executive in Toni Brendish, and she is backed by a very able team. The right people are there with the skills and dedication to get the job done and the board is now putting the right governance structures in place to ensure we have a company with an exciting future," he said.

"Westland will provide shareholders with a competitive and sustainable payout."

Ms Brendish had enacted a positive plan for change that was already producing efficiencies and considerable savings, and a shareholder-led governance review was also under way.

Mr Morrison acknowledged that while Westland was going through a period of change, it was having to make some tough calls to ensure its structure and systems were right for 'growing' the company's future.

"It will be the 2017-18 season before we have got our payout back to where shareholders need it to be," he said.

"But shareholders will be rewarded for their patience and ongoing support. I know that they are with us on this and willing to give this board, our managers and their teams the time we need to turn things around and build a very positive and sustainable future."

Deputy chairwoman Katie Milne was elected to the Westland board in 2016. She lives and farms at Rotomanu.

- Greymouth Star