The 58,000 households in the Tauranga and Western Bay of Plenty region which receive the annual TECT cheque are facing an historic decision about future payments that will have profound impacts on some customers, says energy generator and retailer, Trustpower.
Research shows 85% of these households say the TECT cheque is important to them, and Trustpower chief executive Vince Hawksworth says the Tauranga Energy Consumer Trust proposal to cease TECT payments in 2023 could have unintended negative consequences for some customers.
“In particular, we’re concerned about the impacts on superannuitants and low-income families who rely on this annual payment for budgeting purposes,” Hawksworth says.
He also says the rationale for change put forward by the Trust makes no sense: “We’re not sure why the Trustees are proposing such a dramatic, irreversible change. The electricity industry has been changing for 25 years, and Trustpower has proved to be a disruptive force in that. Changes in technology have been an opportunity for us; so much so we are now New Zealand’s fourth largest telecommunications company.
“At the moment Trustees are proposing a single option for radical change, which is strongly incentivised, whereas we think our local electricity customers deserve to better understand why the change is needed, and to choose from a wider range of options,” Hawksworth says.
Other options could include shifting a greater proportion of funds toward charitable distribution, he adds.
“We believe there will be a range of community views,” Hawksworth says. “Some of our customers will be implacably opposed and will want to protect the cheque, others will see merit in rebalancing the distribution between customers and community.
“This is very important because customers are being asked to sign away their rights to annual TECT cheques for the next 55 years, which represents tens of thousands of dollars and is a very big decision to make,” he says.
Trustpower has decided to actively participate in the consultation process, including undertaking research with its customers to better understand their perspectives, he says.
“We’re very keen to hear people’s views on the issue and what they think should happen to the TECT cheque, and how Trustpower can best support them in ensuring their voices are heard,” he says.
“It is vitally important any final decision made by the trustees, following the proposed vote by beneficiaries of the Trust, is informed with a full understanding of the facts and the concerns people have with the option the Trustees are proposing,” says Hawksworth.
Trustpower was formed by the old Tauranga Electric Power Board and the Tauranga Energy Consumer Trust was established to hold Trustpower shares on trust for the benefit of Trustpower's customers in Tauranga and Western Bay of Plenty. TECT ensures that Trustpower's local electricity customers own part of the business, and the TECT cheque ensures Trustpower’s success is shared with its local electricity customers.