A second election for an unfilled director seat on the Fonterra board will be held next month, with two unsuccessful candidates from the first election pitted against each other in what will be a further test of shaky shareholder support for the board of the big dairy cooperative.

The two candidates will be self-nominated farmer-supported candidate John Nicholls and board nominee Māori Television chairman and agribusinessman Jamie Tuuta.

The election, voting for which will open on December 3, will not be contested by former director Ashley Waugh who was ousted in the first election earlier this month as Fonterra's farmer-owners vented their frustration at the board's financial performance.

It's the first time in Fonterra's 17-year history that a second director election has been needed, said Fonterra Shareholders' Council chairman Duncan Coull.

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The council is responsible for Fonterra director and councillor elections.

Voting will close on December 20 with the result announced later that day.

Only two candidates from the earlier farmer-director election, former director Leonie Guiney and former Zespri chairman Peter McBride were successful in getting more than 50 per support from voting shareholders.

Three other candidates, Nicholls, Tuuta and Waugh failed to make the required 50 per cent, leaving one seat on the board unfilled.

Farmers' dismay at Fonterra's performance was evident not only in their failure to re-elect board nominated Waugh but also in not supporting board-nominated Tuuta.

Guiney, who recently settled a defamation claim with the Fonterra board, was self-nominated with farmer backing, and McBride was board nominated.

The council's decision to limit the new contest to Nicholls and Tuuta instead of opening it to all newcomers reflects councillors' recognition that farmer-shareholders who backed Nicholls' self-nomination would react negatively if their voice was not acknowledged.

"New candidates will have the opportunity to put themselves forward in 2019 as part of the 2019 director election cycle," Coull said.

No third election would be held if neither Tuuta or Nicholls achieved more than 50 per cent support, he said.

If both got more than 50 per cent support, the highest vote achiever would be elected.

The board could make a temporary appointment until next year's annual meeting if the vacant seat was not filled.