Trustpower chief executive Vince Hawksworth has told TECT trustees their consultation process is ‘flawed and lacks credibility' in the final round of verbal submissions on the proposal, held Monday.
TECT trustees have spent four days at the Village Cinema in the Historic Village listening to consumers who wished to speak to their submissions regarding the proposal to wind up the consumer trust of TECT.
Vince, who was speaking as chief executive of Trustpower, but also as a consumer himself, says many hundreds of people are struggling to understand the case for change.
“It's not compelling.”
He says he's been personally rung by people asking him which box to tick on the submission forms, such is their confusion over what the proposal means.
“They need to get into real consultation. There's lots of opportunities to do great things while still looking after the interests of the consumers.”
Vince also rejects the notion that uncertainty in the energy sector is enough of a reason for TECT to undergo such radical changes.
“One set of trustees is no better qualified than I am to see what the future looks like.”
Former Tauranga city councillor John Robson was the last consumer to speak on Monday, and challenged trustees to ‘break the link' between Trustpower and the TECT cheque.
“For most people, half of their TECT cheque is captured by Trustpower's overpricing in this area, which Vince has admitted to,” says John.
He doesn't want to see the cheque gone, though. Instead, he suggests TECT make a minor modification to benefit all energy consumers in Tauranga and the Western Bay of Plenty, not just Trustpower customers, and deliver a reduced cheque every year.
“The real beneficiaries of the TECT cheque are the poorest in our society,” he says. “This proposal removes the direct benefit to these people, and I can't abide punishing our poorest.”
By giving everyone a cheque regardless of their power company, it would remove the advantage of staying loyal to Trustpower, says John, and the company would have to adjust their price accordingly to be more in line with market rates.
Other submitters who spoke made their own suggestions, including a mass resignation of trustees and a new election whereby trustees could campaign for or against the proposal.
However, TECT chair Bill Holland disagreed, saying it would be ‘nonsensical' to make it an election issue, when trustees should not be elected on single issues.
Fellow trustee Natalie Bridges says she views the consultation process as ‘philosophical debate'.
“I want to have a debate about whether people want to keep the TECT cheque as it is, or take some compensation and turn the trust into something that can give back three times as much to Tauranga.”
Around 130 people spoke over the three days, according to TECT, although more had times allocated to them, but did not turn up for various reasons.
Bill says there were a range of views presented over the four days of hearings, although most were against the proposal.
“One theme that came through was that people thought Trustpower was overcharging customers here. They didn't think we should be paying more than market rates for electricity.”
He jokes he's been labelled both a ‘visionary' and a ‘thief', but says he's only trying to do what is right.
“It would be a much easier life if we just sat and did nothing,” says Bill. “But, without trying to scaremonger, we do see issues in the future, and we think the proposal is fair and addresses these issues.”
TECT has received more than 20,000 submissions – a number Bill says they never imagined they would receive.
“They ballooned after Trustpower put out their own submission forms, which we've also included.”
He says the next step will be for the trustees to have debrief later in the week.
“We don't know yet whether we will go to a referendum,” says Bill.