Fonterra, Foodstuffs, Co-op Money and Southern Cross Healthcare are so important to the economy they are woven into the everyday lives of New Zealanders, a new report claims.

But this would also be a surprise to many, because the report has also found the $43 billion a year co-operative economy was poorly understood.

Research has found the country’s top 30 co-operatives and mutuals have more than 1.4 million members and employ about 48,500 people.

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