Dairy giant Fonterra today (Wednesday) announced the appointment of Greater Wellington Regional Council CEO, Barry Harris, to replace long-serving dairy industry executive Barry O'Donnell, in the key role of managing Fonterra's relationships with its farmer owners.

Fonterra Chief Executive Andrew Ferrier said Barry Harris will join Fonterra's leadership team in June as director of shareholder services to replace O'Donnell who retires at the end of this year.

"Barry Harris has a background focused on issues of sustainability, particularly in the agricultural sector, an area that is of increasing importance to Fonterra," Ferrier said.  "He is experienced at leading large teams through complex pieces of business that affect and deal with a wide range of audiences. That's the experience we need in dealing with our farmers, the myriad of issues that affect their business and in managing our farmer support and transport networks."

Harris has strong Waikato links as former CEO of Environment Waikato, which, Ferrier said, have given him a deep understanding of the economics and the impact of the dairy industry both regionally and nationally.

He is also a former CEO of the South Waikato District Council and worked as an economist in the Ministry of Natural Resource Development for the Republic of Kiribati.

"I believe all my experience has given me a real feel for the issues facing our rural economy and communities," said Barry Harris.

"My passion lies with sustainable agriculture and putting my skills in this area to work for a leading New Zealand and international company is a challenge I'm really looking forward to," he said.