8 Mar 2012

Zespri board member quits citing conflict of interest

6:05 am on 8 March 2012

The devastating effects of the kiwifruit disease Psa have reached the boardroom of the industry's marketer, Zespri.

Ray Sharp, one of eight board members, has resigned saying he made an orchard management decision which has compromised his position with Zespri.

Mr Sharp was elected as a grower-director in 2009, and owns several kiwifruit orchards, some of which are infected with Psa.

Zespri's chairman John Loughlin says he was told of the conflict of interest last week, and accepted the resignation on Wednesday.

He says Psa was a factor in Mr Sharp's decision to step down from the board.

"Ray identified that he had a conflict arising from something he'd done on his orchard, we've agreed that it is confidential in terms of the detail", Mr Loughlin says.

He says the action did not cause a direct problem for Zespri, but Mr Sharp was concerned that it might be seen as undermining Zespri's moral authority on an issue and that could give rise to a perception of a conflict of interest.

Mr Loughlin says the position will remain vacant until an annual meeting in July.

Zespri has also ordered an independent investigation into whether its deputy chairman, Peter McBride, was linked to the unlicensed planting of a new gold variety.

The inquiry will be finished later this month.