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Record-breaking year for Eastland group

• $12.1 million paid to shareholder Eastland Community Trust, for the future benefit of the region.
• Income rose to $97 million.
• Profit increased to $20.1 million.
• New geothermal power plant, Te Ahi O Maui, made significant contribution to record-breaking results.
• Changes to Eastland Group board.

Following on from last year’s record results, Eastland Group today announced they’ve broken records once again, with their strongest performance since the company was formed in 2003.

In the year to 31 March 2019 income rose to $97 million, up $12.3 million on the previous year. The audited profit was $20.1 million.

These results mean Eastland Group returned a record $12.1 million to sole shareholder Eastland Community Trust. This is made up of a dividend distribution of $10 million and capital note interest of $2.1 million. (Last year they distributed just over $10 million to ECT.)

“A commercial mind and a community heart”

“Eastland Group is ECT’s commercial arm,” says Eastland Group chief executive Matt Todd. “We’re charged with keeping key regional infrastructure – including Eastland Network, Eastland Port and Gisborne Airport – running smoothly. Every year we provide strong financial returns to ECT. We like to think of it as making profit for a community purpose.

“At the same time, the community is at the heart of everything we do. By delivering on our commercial responsibilities, we directly support the region’s economic growth and wellbeing. And we enable ECT to make their own record distributions for the benefit of the residents of Tairāwhiti Gisborne.

“Thank you to every single member of our staff for their dedication and support, and for helping Eastland Group make it happen for the region in so many positive ways.”

Eastland Community Trust chairman Paul Reynolds congratulated Eastland Group on another successful year.

“The Eastland Group team have a long and successful track record, and this year’s results are a credit to everyone across all the business sectors, who work so hard to deliver for our community. On behalf of the trustees, I would like to congratulate them.”

Te Ahi O Maui helps power record results

Eastland Port and Eastland Network both had similar EBIT returns to 2018.

Eastland Port had a strong year, even with operational downtime caused by significant weather events, with 140 ships handling 2,956,071 tonnes of cargo. Of that, 126 ships took away 2,941,324 tonnes of logs, with the other 14,747 tonnes of cargo made up of fertiliser, fish, kiwifruit and squash. Eastland Port marked a cart-in record-setting day when 15,004 tonnes of wood arrived and was processed on 19 March. In another year-end highlight, the port recorded its best annual result for cruise ship visits.
“It's important that we also acknowledge the passing of a colleague at the port,” says Mr Todd.
Eastland Network had another steady 12 months. Despite the impacts of several major storms, they achieved full compliance with price-quality regulations once again. They also continued with their long-term programme of maintaining and upgrading assets, to ensure a secure power supply for the region.
“An enormous achievement this year was the completion of the Te Ahi O Maui geothermal power plant in Kawerau,” says Mr Todd. “This is New Zealand’s first major renewable power plant in almost four years. It synched to the national grid on 1 October 2018, and is generating around 25 MW of clean, green, renewable energy – enough to power 25,000 homes. It was delivered alongside our Iwi partners and co-investors the A8D Ahu Whenua Trust.
“The strategy behind this major investment was to create positive, long term returns for Eastland Community Trust, and the local community that ultimately owns us. It has provided a model that helps the Iwi landowners unlock economic potential from their land without compromising their kaitiakitanga. This approach is already bearing dividends. The strong generation prices have seen Te Ahi O Maui make a significant contribution to our record-breaking year. Combined with GDL, our other geothermal plant in Kawerau, Eastland Generation delivered $19.5 million towards our total income.”
Airport terminal rebuild underway
Another major project for the region got underway a couple of weeks before the end of the financial year, with the start of the Gisborne Airport terminal rebuild.
The $12.5 million upgrade is being funded by the government’s Provincial Growth Fund ($5.5 million), ECT ($5 million, their largest single-year distribution in history), and the balance from Eastland Group.

“This shared vision, in collaboration with owner Gisborne District Council and Ngai Tāwhiri, who hold mana whenua over the area, will showcase the stories of our region and accommodate the ever-increasing passenger numbers that are vital to our economy.”

Stage one — the baggage claim area — is on track to be completed in October 2019, with the second and final stage finished in June 2020.

Planning for the future
Eastland Group continues to plan and invest for the future.
Eastland Port’s multi-million dollar twin berth development will allow them to meet the needs of all types of cargo, have two ships berth at once, and open up the possibility of containerisation.
Eastland Network has been conducting a long-term solar trial, with the results currently being analysed. Together with the Business Development and Energy Solutions teams, they are considering what the future demand of electricity looks like, and how our region will generate and use power.

Another opportunity being considered - along with ECT and other stakeholders - is a wood waste to energy, or co-generation, power plant. Feasibility work is underway.

Eastland Group’s Electric Village continues to engage with the community on home energy efficiency, understanding power bills, and the benefits of emerging technologies for Tairāwhiti Gisborne. And the region is now connected to the national electric vehicle network, with a total of seven EV chargers helping to drive EV tourism and local EV uptake.

Eastland Group also retains a shareholding in innovative energy retailer Flick Electric Co.

Other ongoing initiatives include supporting a range of local events, community organisations and environmental projects.

New look for Eastland Group board

Eastland Group’s board of directors is appointed by Eastland Community Trust. There were seven directors on the board for the last financial year, with the number due to reduce to six.

ECT have been working to manage the normal rotational retirement process. Directors Mike Glover and Kieran Devine retired by rotation, whilst chairman Keith Sutton and director Fiona Mules have resigned.

An interim chair will be confirmed soon, with the recruitment of three new directors getting underway immediately thereafter.

Eastland Group’s full financial results and annual report will be available online from late June. Eastland Community Trust’s AGM is on July 4, and the public is invited to attend.

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