Yes, there is a highly contagious viral epidemic in Hawke’s Bay. It attacks your pocketbook, eating away at your hard-earned income.
As if Councils spending your money (and borrowing profligately against the piggybanks of your children and grandchildren) wasn’t unhealthy enough, the spending virus has now infected Unison, your powerlines company.
Most BayBuzz readers know by now that Unison has committed $1,000,000 to Mayor Yule’s velodrome.
Putting that number in context, Unison Directors have declared a dividend of $6.2 million for 2009. You and about 56,999 other hard-pressed consumers will share about $108 apiece. That should cover your extra petrol cost to get to the velodrome, should you have occasion to go. I suppose you could cycle over.
This $1 million commitment is contingent on the velodrome actually being built. Unison CEO Ken Sutherland notes firmly that the contribution ($250K in-kind, and $750K in cash, spread over three years) is not transferable … that is, no velodrome, no money. It seems that since the velodrome brings naming rights (i.e., brand awareness), it’s worth the expense to Unison shareholders. But as a gift to the sports park sans velodrome, it’s not. Hmmm … there’s a rousing endorsement!
According to Ken, the velodrome commitment represents the largest of Unison’s community contributions or sponsorships. However the total quantum of such commitments is treated as confidential. The cursory information in Unison’s Annual Report shows a penchant for contributions to sporting — rugby, sailing, sports awards, Pettigrew Green … and now elite cycling.
Unison shareholders have about as much say in such spending commitments (they’re considered mere “operational” expenses) as ratepayers have over Council spending for paper clips. Which is to say … none. Apparently, because management appreciated the sensitivity around making such a commitment to a controversial project, corporate Directors, as well as the Trust that guards your shareholder interests, were “kept informed” of the prospective contribution.
I ran last year for a seat on the HB Power Consumers Trust, but sadly failed at the opportunity to represent your shareholder interests.
Had I won, I would have argued against a contribution to the velodrome. Not only because I think the velodrome is an extravagance. But also because I believe that, if Unison is so flush as to afford a $1 million gift to anything, I can think of far more needy beneficiaries than the Ramblers Cycling Club.
For example, the Herald recently reported that NZ electricity companies were trying to chase down millions in unpaid consumer electric bills. Why unpaid? Helloo … we’re in a fairly deep recession. It’s tough for the unemployed to make ends meet. Maybe instead Unison could spread its wealth to help some of these unfortunates pay their power bills.
For example, the HB Regional Council, in a recent “Leaders Briefing” mailer (I loved those cute pictures of each of the Councillors … could an election be on the horizon?), said it was striving to provide complete insulation and clean heat (like electric heat pumps) to 4,000 homes per year for the next four years. Sounds like they could well use a bit of subsidy. But too late Chairman Dick, Mayor Yule has beaten you to the cash window. And I guess 4,000 little plaques in healthy homes aren’t worth one plaque at the velodrome.
For example, Unison could simply hand the surplus $1 million to its shareholders, you and me. I guess that’s too boring.
Any of these options seem more appealing to me … and worth more in goodwill to Unison. But I suppose they considered all that. And even if the velodrome doesn’t get built, Unison’s name already looks nifty in that flash sports park promotional DVD. Not a bad hedge on their (our) potential investment.