The first elected position I ever stood for was as a member of a team seeking to win the five trustee positions on the Auckland Energy Community Trust (AECT). The AECT is the trust that owns 75.1% of Vector Energy shares on behalf of the people of Auckland. At the time, however, it still owned 100% of the shares.
The team’s main aim was to prevent the right-wing block, led by former National Party President John Collinge, from selling 24.9% of the shares in Vector. In the end Collinge’s mob gained a majority of seats on the AECT and proceeded to sell shares. Once the sale was completed, Collinge, as the Trust’s chairperson, promised this would be the last shares the Trust ever sold.
Personally, I could never understand why anyone would want to sell off a portion of an exceptionally well-run virtual monopoly that paid a very healthy dividend to the people of Auckland.
Move forward to 2014, and John Collinge is at it once again. Collinge, backed by another former National party president Michelle Boag, and helped by Auckland EMA CEO Kim Campbell, is trying to gather support for a scheme that would steal the shares off the people of Auckland for good.
Their miserable plan, as I have been led to believe, involves pressuring the National government to introduce legislation that would allow the shares, worth around $2.1b, to be nationalised, and then gifted back to the Auckland City Council for them to sell – to the people of Auckland and overseas buyers.
Let’s put this into perspective. This year the AECT returned a $335 dividend to all shareholders (75.1% of whom are the people of Auckland). This is a most welcome bonus to many who are currently struggling with the extremely high costs of living in Auckland.
Vector is an incredibly progressive and innovative company and so this dividend is only going to grow. Why sell it? This is about ideology – and a massive disconnect by some wealthy individuals who simply have absolutely no idea at all how important $335 is to a huge number of Auckland families.
I think we have highlighted this potential issue in time so that Collinge, Boag, Campbell and co just look misery and miserable, but the fact that National Energy Minister Simon Bridges refused to comment on the matter suggests that it might have had some legs if the nasties had been a little smarter in their strategic execution; the fact that the right has handled this so ineptly is a blessing for all Aucklanders, but expect this type of behaviour to continue as the Nats seek to get their hands on high performing, publicly owned assets.
Keeping Vector in the hands of good hardworking Aucklanders is very definitely something worth fighting for. I will keep you updated if I hear anything more.