Fonterra shareholders want change but Cabinet Minister Shane Jones' outburst against their chairman John Wilson is likely to turn the mood into even stronger support for the cooperative.

That was a feeling expressed several times during an informal Herald canvas of Fonterra farmer opinion at Fieldays - but there was also a strong degree of dissatisfaction at the performance of Fonterra leaders.

Regional Economic Development Minister Jones yesterday called on long-serving farmer- chairman Wilson to "take the next cab out of town".

Jones, who attended Fieldays yesterday, said Fonterra should stop being political and concentrate on its business, including justifying the money it had lost in overseas investments. Jones said Fonterra was disconnected from the farming community.


"He (Jones) likes hearing the sound of his own voice. He likes controversy," said one Fonterra farmer.

"Most farmers have more sense than to listen to Jones. If he (Wilson) doesn't get re-elected it won't be because of Jones," said another.

"Some of us are wondering if John Wilson's time is up but once we get pushed around by a politician we will just get in behind the co-op. Jones has no stake in this company," said a shareholder.

"It's our co-op. Our company," was another response.

One sharemilker who supplies Fonterra said "most people in Fonterra need sacking" while his partner believed the "huge money" paid to the farmer-owned company's leaders should be going into the milk price paid to farmers who work their fingers to the bone 24/7.

"It doesn't interest me," said one shareholder.

"The general mood out there is we need to make a change - no disrespect to the chairman," said another.

"The buck has to stop at the top and we've had some pretty horrible experiences, but not just attributable to the chairman. Beingmate should have been nipped in the bud."


The cooperative has suffered heavy capital investment losses since its investment in Chinese baby milk company Beingmate.

Fonterra staff at the Fieldays site, however, wouldn't be drawn on a politician attacking their chairman - even when assured of anonymity.

"No comment. You have to go through our communications people," said one.