In 2009 I naively stood as an independent in the Auckland Energy Consumer Trust election. I thought the election would be about electing the best possible candidates to be Trustees. I presumed there would be media coverage of the election issues, discussion of candidate policies and a fair chance of success if my skills and experience stacked up against what the other candidates had to offer.
Unfortunately (or fortunately- because if I had known I would never have bothered) I had absolutely no idea that there was no chance that I would be elected because everything was stacked against me. I wrote about my experience here.
The incumbent C&R trustees had a very simple strategy:
- pay the dividend of $320 just before election day
- send out a letter to a database of 50,000 and put up hoardings claiming credit for the dividend payment
Then sit back and rely on no media coverage of the election and low voter turnout (less than 17% in 2009) to return them once again to a role that pays between $63,000 and $90,000 in fees. So of course they have taken exactly the same strategy for the 2012 election.
However things aren’t quite working out as planned – the dodgy practices of the AECT election are finally being exposed. Matt McCarten summed it up today here in the Herald on Sunday.
I’m supporting the YOUR POWER TEAM candidates. They have a range of well thought through policies that includes paying the dividend. They will bring long overdue fresh thinking to the role of trustees.
I want to see change at the AECT. I don’t think it is healthy for democracy for the incumbents to go unchallenged any longer.
Your Power Team Media Release
The annual dividend of more than $300 paid by the Auckland Energy Consumers Trust (AECT) to electricity consumers within the former Auckland Electric Power Board area will be maintained and grown and the Trust will be reformed to reduce its directors’ fees and consultancy expenses under policies announced by the YOUR POWER TEAM, which is a new group contesting the postal vote election to be held in October.
The YOUR POWER TEAM ticket is former Auckland City Councillor Glenda Fryer, electricity industry engineer Chris Olson, renewable energy expert Richard Leckinger, financial manager and company director Tim McMains and former Auckland Royal Commissioner David Shand. Spokesperson, former Auckland Royal Commissioner David Shand, said that the Team recognises the importance to Auckland consumers of the dividend. “In times of high and still rising electricity prices and unaffordable rates for some sections of the community the annual dividend is particularly welcome” said Mr Shand. He continued: “This dividend, from the Trust’s 75 percent ownership of the lines company Vector, reflects the sound financial performance of Vector for its shareholders rather than the management of the AECT itself.
The current group controlling the five-member Trust, the Citizens and Ratepayers Association, now rebranded as Community and Residents but better known as C&R, will try to persuade voters that the dividend is due to their good management. In reality it is due to the good management of Vector. Trust members have added little value except to pocket large trustee fees and waste money on consultants. Over the past three years the C&R trustees have paid themselves over $1 million in fees.” Mr Shand added that the Your Power Team would publish full details of the Trust’s administration expenses, including fees and consultancy expenses, in the Trust’s annual report and on its website. No such details are currently provided. The Trust’s annual report will also be more informative than the one page report tabled each year by the current trustees. Recognizing the tough times being faced by many Aucklanders, the YOUR POWER TEAM will heavily reduce the huge sum of around $1.5million spent annually on trustees’ remuneration and consultancy expenses. Mr Shand said the Team comprised five experienced people with different skills who would bring a wide range of experience to the Trust’s operations.
For more information, contact David Shand on 027 535 7619, firstname.lastname@example.org
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The Auckland Energy Consumer Trust paid out $320 on 18 September to electricity consumers (income beneficiaries of the trust) in Auckland City (including Waiheke Island), Manukau City and the northern parts of Papakura.
AECT are currently undertaking a campaign promoting how great it is to get the dividend and asking people to share their stories as to how they intend to spend the money. It is nice to think of the dividend as a windfall that can be put to a special purchase.
But of course there is no such thing as $320 of “free” money as it partly came from the profits Vector makes from charging the very people who receive the dividend – Vector’s customers who pay electricity line charges. It is fair to ask: if this money is being returned to us, are we not currently being overcharged for electricity? Many households will have paid their highest energy bills ever over a cold winter – the dividend could be used to benefit the community through lower power bills when it really matters.
As a trustee I will also be asking whether the large dividend Vector has paid the Trust means Vector is spending enough to give customers what they really want – a safe, reliable and economical service. All very well for households to have an extra $320 this month but not if this has to be spent on candles and torches when the lights go out!
Tell me your stories – is the power really in your hands?