If elected as mayor, I want to lead a Council who creates a solid platform that enables everyone in Tairawhiti to thrive. We will achieve this by Councillors focussing firmly on Council’s core business and doing what we say we will do, and doing it well. To me, that is the main role of a mayor. Sitting alongside that is the very important part that the mayor – with the team of Councillors - play as advocates on behalf of our residents.
That brings me to ECT. The trust deed stipulates that the mayor, or their appointee, is one of the trustees on the ECT Board. Council plays a clear role in relation to ECT - we appoint trustees, sets the trustee fees, approves the ECT Statement of Intent and acts as the consultation party for Trust deed changes. That is our involvement on behalf of our community. After the election, I intend to lead the Council in those GDC processes and appoint a Councillor to serve as an ECT trustee on our behalf. That person will report back to us and be our voice around the ECT table.
ECT was established in 1993 to assist in creating a more positive, prosperous and attractive Tairawhiti community. The trustees have been doing that by cash distributions made to several community groups. In earlier years, as the trustees grew the nest egg, distributions were small, but in the last few years, distributions were north of $5M and last year they distributed a record $10M. Going forward, ECT intends to distribute $120M into our community over the next 6 years. These contributions are a lifeline to many Tairawhiti organisations (including GDC) where important community projects are given a new lease on life. I am heartened by ECT’s move from a purely economic focus to a well-being framework where their focus will move to include social, environmental and cultural outcomes.
A submission was made to Council a few years ago suggesting that ECT should distribute some of their nest egg or profit to every electricity-paying resident in Tairawhiti. ECT met up with Councillors a few times to discuss this proposal, and in the end, the ECT trustees made it clear that they see more value to the wider community in distributing grants to community organisations every year than paying a relatively small annual cash payout to each household.
There is no denying that Tairawhiti families are burdened by high electricity bills. The reason lines charges are relatively high when compared nationally, is our long, stringy network needed to service our community and our relatively low customer density. In other words, they service a very large area with not a lot of people to pay for it. Arguably, a lack of retail competition as well as not having the right power retailer for your needs, can also play a role.
As advocates for the residents of Tairawhiti, I am happy to keep on having discussions on how we can address concerns about affordability raised with us as Councillors. We have a wealth of knowledge living in our place and together we can share our ideas on how to tackle this issue.