The HB Power Consumers Trust … is it time to pull the plug?

The Hawke’s Bay Power Consumers Trust held its annual meeting last week, attended by about twenty members of the public and about the same number of directors and staff of Unison and the Trust.

Considerable emphasis was given to the five-yearly Ownership Review now underway (i.e., is the present Trust arrangement the best ownership structure for Unison and the community?). 

Previous reviews have appeared to be pro forma. The eight pages of ‘analysis’ in the last review, written for Unison by PWC (as the current one will be) was theoretical and could have applied to just about any publicly owned entity considering change. With Unison facing huge growing capital needs to ‘build back better’ for its consumer/shareholders in the face of climate change (Capex climbing toward $100m per year according to Unison Chair Phil Hocquard), hopefully the current review will be considerably more exhaustive and contextual than a ‘cut and paste’ job. 

The recent change of ownership structure for Napier Port, for example, has certainly enhanced the financial profile and investment potential for that ‘public’ asset.

Perhaps the new review might also indicate concretely exactly what the Trust’s directors do contribute that materially improves the performance of a clearly competent Unison board and staff, which has just delivered a $15.8 million dividend for the 2022/23 financial year.

The public will see the completed review on 15 September, with submissions then open, a public hearing on 10 November and a decision by the Trustees (on their own future) on 17 November.

While the process screams ‘pro forma’, there might be more fireworks this time around, as a consumer group – Free the Funds – has been formed advocating a substantial change in ownership – disbanding the Trust and awarding Unison’s shares directly to the company’s consumer/owners.

But meantime, the Annual Meeting atmosphere was less than electric. Trust Chair Diana Kirton ran a set-piece session, the only excitement generated by a few challenging questions from the floor – one dealing with whether the Trustees could unilaterally extend their term by one year, as they have recently done – that rolled off the assembled Trust/Unison officialdom like water off a duck’s back.

Nevertheless, BayBuzz was there to cover, with our videographer Patrick O’Sullivan producing this report. Chair Diana Kirton refused to comment on camera.


Join the Conversation


  1. I’m in my 70s so $400 divided into $12k means that status quo will take 50yrs so what financial decision to make is a not hard for me

  2. Is it fair that only current users would get the shares/money? It’s not like they actually invested anything in it.

    1. Current and past consumers of electricity have paid for a nice nest egg which should now be refunded to the max.

  3. Bugger 5 people sucking $140,000 annually off it. For doing next to sfa!
    Surely now is the right time to wind-up the trust, get it properly “independently valued” and payout a lump sum to us the consumers!

    No dissimilar a process to what the Hawkes Regional Council followed, when they drcided to flog-off 49% of the Port of Napier. Or successive NZ governments who have flogged off near “everything Not nailed down!
    Enough of the crumbs…….

  4. To 4 of the 5 commentators, please read Glen’s reply then explain why it is you think you’re entitled to a payout. What about past and future customers?

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *