Media release – immediate circulation
30 September 2020
The Lines Company to remain in Customer Trust ownership following community vote
Waitomo Energy Services Customer Trust (WESCT) will retain its 100% ownership of The Lines Company (TLC) for another six years, following overwhelming support from voters in its recent ownership poll and ‘A’ trustee election.
Almost 85% of respondents to WESCT’s Election of Trustees & Ownership Review Poll, conducted in September, voted in favour of continued Trust ownership of TLC.
Peter Keeling, Chair of WESCT, says the outcome of the poll guarantees the benefits of continued local ownership for WESCT beneficiaries until the next ownership review in 2026.
“We’re delighted the community has recognised the benefits of retaining Trust ownership of The Lines Company. We feel it’s vitally important to be able to guarantee continued community ownership, which brings a whole host of benefits including locally-controlled services, jobs and discounts for beneficial customers.”
While the 85% support for retaining Trust ownership this year was slightly lower than the 90%-plus support received in previous polls in 1996, 2002, 2008 and 2014, it is still clear that the current ownership model is still overwhelmingly in favour among voters, Mr Keeling says.
“We have seen a slight reduction in the number of people voting in favour of the current ownership model this year, which could be a result of the financial impact of Covid-19 and uncertainty about the future. However, this poll is a vital review process and we are very pleased that a significant majority of respondents who opted to have their say have recognised the benefits of ongoing Trust ownership.”
Benefits of WESCT ownership of TLC include retaining local control of vitally important infrastructure for homes and local businesses, as well as the ability to reduce line charges for beneficial customers. In the nine years to March 31 2019, TLC billed customers over $30m less than was allowed by the Commerce Commission, says Mr Keeling.
“Customers may not have received these reduced charges had The Lines Company not been in Trust ownership. We’re also pleased to have recognised and worked alongside the TLC board to act on specific community needs recently, for example the Covid-19 response of reduced charges in April this year, as well as helping to make homes more energy-efficient through the Maru Trust.”
Trust ownership also ensures profit derived from the network business is placed back into the local community, with over $30m of discounts and dividends having been passed back to beneficial customers over the past six years.
“The outcome of the vote also means TLC remains a significant local business and employer, providing locally-based training, job opportunities and career paths for people in the community, especially young people,” Mr Keeling adds.
Voters have also re-elected Erin Gray, William Oliver and Janette Osborne as trustees of WESCT for the next three-year term.
Erin Gray is of Ngāti Maniapoto and Ngā Rauru descent and is passionate about making a difference for her iwi and community. She sees The Lines Company as playing a significant role in contributing towards the economic and social wellbeing of the wider Maniapoto community, both as a major employer and contributor to the economic landscape within the King Country.
William Oliver was born and raised in Ōtorohanga and now farms in the Rangitoto district, alongside his other governance roles in the agricultural sector. He believes in the efficient operation of The Lines Company as a local economic enabler, including providing affordable electricity supply and the highest levels of service practicable.
Janette Osborne is a qualified accountant with over 20 years’ corporate and government experience. Based at Waitomo Caves, she is Chartered Member of the Institute of Directors and a small business owner. She believes the Trust and its ownership of The Lines Company are significant community assets.
The three elected trustees join Peter Keeling and Cathy Prendergast, along with a sixth trustee who will shortly be appointed in accordance with the trust deed. The trustees also farewell Nigel Chetty, who has not been re-elected for the coming term.
“The trustees thank Nigel for his significant contribution to the Trust and the wider community during his term as trustee and we wish him well,” says Mr Keeling.