Europe-based Fonterra staff would have travelled at least 9000km to attend a sales and marketing meeting at a Southern California beach resort town, a venue the dairy company says was chosen because of its proximity to LAX airport.
The company is refusing to give details of the meeting at tourist and surf mecca Huntington Beach, which NBR has reported was attended by up to 200 staff from the co-op's New Zealand milk product division at the time Fonterra was announcing a historic annual loss of $196 million last week.
Fonterra responded to questions about the meeting with this statement:
"NZMP is an international business, with the majority of staff and customers based offshore, including a significant number in Europe, the US and South America. Every two years, select members of this team come together for a sales and marketing meeting to review performance and develop strategic plans for the following 12 months.
"The location of the global meeting varies but is always organised near a major airport hub. The venue for this year's meeting was selected due to its proximity to LAX. Books for the event were made several months ago to ensure cost efficiencies."
Huntington Beach is at least an hour's drive from LAX.
It's not unusual for large international businesses like Fonterra to hold conferences overseas, but the farmer-owned cooperative is in the public spotlight for its financial performance, number of managers, and staff salaries. Its annual report last week showed nearly 6000 staff were on $100,000 and up.
Cabinet minister Shane Jones told the Herald last week that Fonterra's new chief executive Miles Hurrell needed to "get out the hedge clippers and start pruning people" and urged the company to drop its "flashy" front.
Fonterra did not respond to the Herald's questions about meeting numbers, where the meeting was held two years ago, how many staff were US-based, and how many came from Europe and South America.