Winston Peters says Fonterra boss Theo Spierings' $8.32 million paycheck for 2017 is why shareholders in New Zealand need "say-on-pay" laws.
Fonterra's annual result, released yesterday, revealed Spierings was paid a base salary of $2.463m, benefits of $170,036, short-term incentive pay of $1.832m and long-term incentive pay of $3.855m.
"Is this corporate New Zealand? Fat-cat payouts for doing their day job," Peters said.
"Shareholders need to be reminded that their payout of $6.52 per kilogram of milksolids this season, is well under what they got in real terms for the final two seasons before Mr Spierings came onto the management scene."
Peters said Spierings forwent a bonus worth $1.83m during one of Fonterra's worst payout years, but has won that bonus back in "an average season".
He took a swing at Fonterra's investment in Beingmate Baby & Child Food, the unprofitable Chinese infant formula producer and distributor that sells Fonterra's Anmum formula in China.
Yesterday, Fonterra said it took an impairment loss of $35 million on its 18.8 per cent stake, reducing the carrying value to $617 million, which it said reflected Beingmate's share price slide and recent losses. Still, "the market fundamentals remain strong and the changes to the regulatory regime, anticipated to be effective from 1 January 2018, are expected to have a positive impact on Beingmate's financial performance," it said.
"Fonterra shareholders have seen the value of that stake almost halve over the past two and a half years - in excess of $300 million," Peters said.
"This kind of fat-cat payout is why shareholders need to be given a say on pay. Shareholders need to be given the power to hold the directors and bosses to account," Peters said.
Fonterra said Spierings' remuneration was benchmarked using independent third-party remuneration advisers appointed by the board. It was measured against 24 Australian listed companies of similar size.
Shareholders can question the remuneration set by the board at annual general meetings.
Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking defended Spiering's pay this morning, saying nobody should be comparing his pay to the average monthly pay.
"Why would you compare his wage to an average wage when he's not doing an average job?" he said on Mike Hosking Breakfast.
"It is a massive job for what really is in New Zealand a unique company in terms of size and influence."
Hosking said the dairy co-operative is owned by farmers, and he hasn't heard any farmers expressing a problem with what Spierings is paid.
Hosking said Fonterra's board set Spierings targets, and he must meet those targets to be paid his bonus.
"We are dealing in billions and billions of dollars of revenue here.
"Those targets, when met, which they clearly have been, benefit everyone.
"When I say everyone, I mean everyone from Fonterra, to the farmers, to the farm workers, to the government, to you and I."