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Split In Trust Ranks

Split In Trust Ranks Highlights Need For Rethink On Vote Says Eckhoff

A split in the ranks of the Otago Central Electric Power Trust, highlights another chapter in the “sorry saga” of the trust’s leadership and throws into doubt the whole credibility of the current voting procedure which will determine the trust’s future, ACT MP and Central Otago resident, Gerry Eckhoff said today.

In an interview with the Queenstown community paper, “Mountain Scene” today, the trust’s deputy chairman Dick Hill, contradicted his chairman by saying regardless of the outcome of the current voting process on winding up the trust, the 17.6 million dollars in a separate account, could be paid out directly to consumers.

“This is an extraordinary state of affairs and throws into doubt the whole of the trust’s credibility and the credibility of the voting procedure” Mr Eckhoff said.

“Consumers have been led to believe all along that unless they voted yes to the dissolution of the trust, and the establishment of another charitable trust to manage its multi-million dollar assets, consumers would not receive a pay out from the $17.6 million fund.

“Now, half way through the voting procedure, Dick Hill comes out and states the contrary. Consumers will now want to know why they were not told this before the ballot papers were sent out? It is disgraceful,” Mr Eckhoff.

“I would like to know how many voting papers have been returned after a week into the voting procedure and if people can request that they now be declared void, in light of this new situation?” Mr Eckhoff said concerned consumers have raised the possibility of seeking a judicial review of the voting procedures on the future of the Otago Central Electric Power trust, and today’s developments gave credence to that point of view.

“It would be entirely unfortunate if a judicial review had to go ahead but the numerous disgruntled consumers who have contacted me say they are so confused about the whole debate, that they are desperate enough to think about taking legal action,” Mr Eckhoff said.

He said if a judicial review was called for, the trust would only have itself to blame.

“This is a trust which has steadfastly refused to widen the debate and make important information available to the consumers. In fact consumers can reach their own conclusions on whether or not they have also been misled by not being informed about vital information the trust received from Inland Revenue on the implication of the disposal or distribution of the trust’s funds.” Mr Eckhoff said.

“Leadership on this issue should bring communities closer together, not create division as is happening now.

“There is more than $170 million dollars of consumers money at stake here yet the trust is playing a game of nickel and dime politics,” Mr Eckhoff said.

He said he was also particularly concerned that the Queenstown District Council and the Central Otago District Council. were now spending ratepayers money on a campaign to support the power trust being wound up, and the setting up of another charitable trust to manage the funds.

“The mayors now need to come out and state what exactly they were briefed on by the trust, and if the trust also told them that there would be no pay-out unless people return a ‘yes’ vote. The councils’ credibility is at stake over this issue as well.

He said it was “very sad” that so much energy was going into an increasingly acrimonious debate, when all the peoples’ wishes would have been satisfied if the issues had been brought into the open and the debate had been handled “better from day one.”


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