Former Fonterra director Leonie Guiney is back, "thrilled and honoured" to have been returned to the board of New Zealand's biggest company after the humiliation of being pushed out last year and having her name muddied in court.

The South Canterbury farmer has been elected back onto the board as Fonterra's farmer-owners vented their anger at the company's performance, tossing out a sitting director in favour of Guiney and voting in new blood, outgoing Zespri chairman Peter McBride.

Sitting director Ashley Waugh who was up for re-election by rotation has been voted out, and businessman Jamie Tuuta and Canterbury farmer John Nicholls were unsuccessful.

Five candidates contested three vacancies on the board of New Zealand's biggest company.

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Waugh, Tuuta and McBride were endorsed by the Fonterra board under the company's "independent nomination" process. Guiney and Nicholls were self-nominated.

One director seat remains unfilled as the remaining three candidates did not achieve the support of more than 50 per cent of votes cast. A second election will be held for the vacant seat. It will be open to the unsuccessful candidates and new contestants.

Fonterra chairman John Monaghan said McBride came with "deep governance experience and leadership".

Guiney was a strong co-operative supporter and he had "worked constructively" alongside her before.

"As chairman, I'm pretty happy with the overall balance of skills and attributes (on the board)," said Monaghan, in the job just weeks after the twin exits of his predecessor John Wilson for health reasons, and former chief executive Theo Spierings.

Fonterra Shareholders' Council chairman Duncan Coull said the farmer-shareholder voting turnout was extremely strong at 68 per cent of all milk solids supplied to Fonterra.

He was encouraged by the strong interest but declined to comment on the reason for the election result.

Guiney left the Fonterra board last year, saying she was prevented from recontesting her seat of three years when it came up by rotation.

Guiney recently settled a defamation claim against the Fonterra board, over a letter the board sent Fonterra's 10,000 or so farmer-shareholders explaining why it had sought a court injunction gagging Guiney from speaking about Fonterra business.

Fonterra, created by special enabling legislation 17 years ago to be a national export champion, recently posted its first-ever net financial loss and has been under fire from shareholders, the Beehive and the public for its overseas investment decisions, destruction of $1.5 billion of farmer-owner capital, and financial performance.

McBride, who steps down as the board head of national kiwifruit export marketer Zespri early next year, is chief executive and shareholder of large-scale North Island dairying and kiwifruit operation Trinity Lands. McBride is believed to be the largest single shareholder in Zespri.

Only Fonterra farmer-shareholders can vote in director elections and on other matters related to the big co-operative.

The three vacancies on the Fonterra board were created by the retirement of Wilson, and director Nicola Shadbolt. Waugh, a Te Awamutu dairy farmer and a director of Seeka and Colonial Motor Co, was seeking a second term on the board.