WA wool figurehead backs Australian Wool Innovation board nomination committee’s recommendations

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Corrigin sheep producer Steven Bolt.
Camera IconCorrigin sheep producer Steven Bolt. Credit: Josh Fernandes

Longstanding WA woolgrower Steven Bolt has lent his voice to a campaign to have two incumbent directors re-appointed to the Australian Wool Innovation board, saying “driving profitability for Merino wool” needs to be at the top of the new board’s list of priorities.

AWI’s woolgrower shareholders will vote this week, with three directors set to be elected from a field of seven candidates at the organisation’s annual general meeting on November 19.

Three board positions became available after James Morgan, Noel Henderson and Colette Garnsey decided not to restand.

Mr Bolt — the chair of the independent WoolPoll 2021 panel — encouraged growers to vote for current AWI chairman Jock Laurie, director Don Macdonald and new nominees Georgia Hack and Steven Read.

His views matched those of the AWI’s independent board nomination committee, which recommended the same four candidates.

Both the board nomination committee and Mr Bolt did not recommend the three other candidates, Michael Field, Charles Olsson and Sydney Lawrie.

Mr Bolt said he was confident in the board nomination committee’s ability to evaluate the skills of candidates and to determine what areas of importance “needed to be filled” within the group.

“I think it is important to retain incumbents, the board has a good spread of experience and new-ish directors,” he said.

“As an industry, we need to start focusing on coming together to create the most efficient and profitable industry that we can have.”

Mr Bolt said “driving the price of Merino wool higher” by marketing wool appropriately should be the number one priority for directors.

“With Colette Garnsey, a long serving director and past chairwoman stepping down, it is extremely important we continue to have directors with marketing skills on the board,” he said.

“About 60 per cent of grower funds are currently directed to marketing, so it is important we have directors with skills that can best utilise growers’ funds and continue to drive the price and profitability for all woolgrowers.”

I think it is important to retain incumbents, the board has a good spread of experience and new-ish directors.

Steven Bolt

National body WoolProducers Australia — which has WAFarmers and Pingelly farmer John Hassell on its board — has also endorsed the board nomination committee’s recommendation while also asking shareholders to consider New South Wales grower Mr Field.

WAFarmers endorsed incumbent Mr Macdonald and new candidates Mr Read and Mr Field, but not Mr Laurie and Ms Hack.

“It is a growers’ company so we strongly urge all eligible shareholders to take the time to vote in the director elections,” he said.

“It is imperative that we have a strong, cohesive board to maximise profitability for growers. We have seen a decline in sheep numbers and wool production in WA during the past decade, so growers’ choices around sheep in the enterprise is driven by profitability.”

While WAFarmers and WoolProducers have differing views on the best AWI director candidates, both are united in supported retention of a 1.5pc wool levy rate.

The result of WoolPoll 2021 will be announced at the AGM.

AWI’s board announced this month open proxies directed to the chair would be redirected to three candidates — Mr Laurie, Mr Macdonald and Ms Hack.

Proxy voting closes 48 hours before the AGM, at 10am AEST on Wednesday, November 17.

Woolgrowers can vote in one of two ways — by filling out the form mailed or by lodging a proxy vote online.

To find out more, visit wool.com/agm.

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