Trust drops $11m

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Give back the rest before you lose that too – critic

The do-good Central Lakes Trust has done bad again – and one Queens­towner’s had enough.

Other media reports paint rosier pictures but Mountain Scene has drilled deeper into CLT accounts for the March 31 year.

“Total funds under management” by CLT have plunged $11.2 million to $141.9m. The loss equals $30,685 daily – $1278 hourly.

“Why don’t they give us back what they’ve got left – before they blow that too?” asks Russell Houliston.

He was a fierce critic in 1999 when $155 million of cash and assets from former power co-op Central Electric was to be handed over to the new CLT – rather than returned to consumers as Central Electric’s nominal owners.

After a long Mountain Scene campaign, consumers got minimal payouts – but CLT got the lion’s share.
Houliston is aghast at CLT’s latest performance.

Main contributors are investment losses of $5.5m, “impairment losses” on investments of a further $1.3m – and a bloodbath on foreign exchange costing $3.2m.

Outside these figures, hydro-electric subsidiary Pioneer Generation saved the day by paying CLT a $4.5m dividend.
But CLT has also exhausted its “grants reserve” – a $5.4m reserve has now been transferred to “general funds”.
This is the second year Mountain Scene has reported CLT sitting on huge investment losses.

Last year CLT chair Duncan Butcher called the paper’s story “all bullshit” – what does he say now?
Butcher: “No comment.”

And in his report last year, Butcher stuck his neck out: “International markets are expected to recover during the forthcoming year …”

This week? “The recovery has been slower than most pundits thought.”

While CLT has taken a hit, it hasn’t done as badly as other trusts, he claims.

Butcher is also not worried about the grants reserve “being amalgamated into the other accounts”.

“We’re quite happy that we do have enough money to carry on into the future – we’re $5m up this [financial] year so far.”

On past performance, does the Crom­­well B&B operator and regional councillor feel a bit out of his depth? “No.”
Contemplating resignation? “No.”

Why not? “[CLT] is a trust of five people, we have professional advice, we’re still giving money to the community, we’re in a recession, and our trust is in a fairly good position compared with other trusts.

“So why should I [resign]?”

CLT won’t return the remaining $142m to former power consumers: “Our trust deed doesn’t allow us to give that money back.”

Trustees – who each get about $20,000 yearly – come up for re-election in 2010.