Northland farmer and former Fonterra board member Greg Gent says the co-op's move to gag former director Leonie Guiney from talking to the media is "bizarre".

The legal gagging order was issued by Justice Clark in the High Court late on Friday restrained publisher NZX Rural Limited from using, publishing or disseminating confidential information allegedly received from Guiney.

The injunction also restrains Guiney "from breaching her duties of confidentiality" to Fonterra.

Other unnamed media, cited as third respondents, are also prevented from using or publishing any confidential information that may have been received from Guiney.


Media, including the New Zealand Herald, were advised of the orders in an email from Fonterra's lawyers Chapman Tripp.

Guiney, a South Island dairy farmer and Fonterra shareholder, left the dairy company's board late last year.

Gent, who served on the Fonterra board from 2001 to 2011, said: "From the outside it looks bizarre - that's the only way I can describe it - but I know no more than Joe Public."

In response to an inquiry from the Herald, Gent said farmers were becoming more concerned about the situation with Fonterra's minority 18.8 per cent holding in China's Beingmate Baby Child.

"I think that there is major concern about this whole Beingmate thing, but putting it a bit wider than that, there is this whole strategy in China, because obviously there is SanLu, China Farms and this thing (Beingmate) - there's three -" he said. "It's serious capital even for a company the size of Fonterra," he said.

"There is a lot of concern and people are waiting to see how it plays out, basically," he said.

The failure of joint venture partner SanLu, which was implicated in the melamine adulterated formula scandal of 2007, meant Fonterra had to write off $200 million in the following year.

The co-op has spent about $800m in establishing dairy farms in China but the venture has struggled to turn a profit.


On paper, Fonterra has racked up big losses on its $755 million investment in Beingmate, at 18 yuan a share, compared with its last traded price of 5.2 yuan.

The last few months have seen a deterioration in Beingmate's financial position.

In January, Beingmate issued a forecast earnings downgrade for its financial year ended December 31, revising the previously announced forecast loss of RMB 350 million – RMB 500 million to a forecast loss of RMB 800 million – RMB 1 billion (NZ$171 – NZ$214 million).

Fonterra said at the time it was "extremely disappointed by Beingmate's announcement and the on-going performance of the company".

Fonterra said it would consider the financial implication of its investment for the purposes of its first half result, due later this month.

Last month, Fonterra chairman John Wilson said he was confident Beingmate could be turned around "over the medium term".

Gent and another former director and current Fonterra supplier Colin Armer, led an unsuccessful campaign in 2016 to reduce the board of Fonterra from 11 from 13.

Gent has several other directorships. He joined the board of health insurer Southern Cross in 2011 was elected chairman in 2014.

Before Fonterra's creation in 2001, Gent was chairman of Dairy Holdings. He is a director of the New Zealand Institute for Plant and Food Research and also served on Northland District Health Board from 2010 to mid 2015.

Units in the Fonterra Shareholder Fund, which gives investors access to Fonterra's dividend, last traded at $5.94, down 2c from Friday's close.