Trust to retain lines company ownership

In the end, there was a very clear mandate for the Waitaki Power Trust to retain the status quo.

On Wednesday, the trust concluded a review of ownership of Network Waitaki, its trustees unanimously voting to continue to own all shares in the electricity lines company on behalf of about 13,100 electricity consumers in the Waitaki district.

The move reflected the overwhelming view expressed in the 199 submissions, all but one of which supported continuing the trust ownership model.

Waitaki Power Trust chairman John Clements said, ‘‘We’ve had the rubber stamp.’’

The 10-yearly review looked at several other forms of ownership — a joint venture, a merger, part distribution or sale of minority stake, 100% distribution or sale of shares, and asset sale and conversion of the trust to a community trust — weighing up the pros and cons of each.

Many of those wanting the status quo to continue cited the annual discount on their power bills and other community sponsorship initiatives as key reasons for their support of trust ownership.

Over the past 10 years, Network Waitaki has returned about $19million to consumers in the form of discounts off electricity bills.

Last year, most residential and small business electricity consumers in the district received a credit on their bill of $83.93, labelled as ‘‘Discount from Network Waitaki’’, as part of a $1.72million payout.

The company also gives money back to the community in the form of sponsorships for sports and recreation, education, health, science, art and cultural groups, and offers scholarships to local students who pursue tertiary training in engineering and technology.

Mr Clements described Network Waitaki, a company estimated in its annual accounts to have total assets of $127million, as a ‘‘sleeping giant’’ in the district.

He thanked all consumers who shared their opinions as part of the ownership review.

It was a necessary and worthwhile process to gauge the feeling in the community, and the trustees took confidence knowing ‘‘consumers were happy’’, he said.

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