Port being asked for millions in dividends to offset rates

Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
The Otago Regional Council is asking Port Otago to pay nearly $60 million in dividends over the next three years to offset rates.

The council has also outlined a couple of priority areas for when the 100% council-owned port company presents the council its statement of corporate intent.

Decarbonisation and environmental stewardship remained priorities yesterday, but an attempt to formalise a request for the company to develop a strategy to protect and uphold human rights failed in a 7-5 vote.

Chairwoman Cr Gretchen Robertson drafted the council’s first "letter of expectations" to Port Otago chairman Tim Gibson to inform him that over the next three years, in its long-term plan, the council was expecting dividends of $18 million next year, and $20 million in each of the following two years.

In the letter of expectation, approved yesterday, Cr Robertson said the council also expected the port company to pay the $350,000 donation the council made each year to the Otago Rescue Helicopter Trust, beginning next year.

The letter also said the council supported the port’s decarbonisation goals, "and progress it has made to date".

The council wanted Port Otago to work on its "decarbonisation roadmap" and to report back to the council and the community, the letter said.

And it endorsed a continued focus on environmental stewardship.

At yesterday’s meeting, Cr Elliot Weir attempted to add as a priority that Port Otago would work on a strategy to observe and uphold human rights.

However, Cr Tim Mepham said what was requested was an impractical requirement for the company.

Cr Gary Kelliher suggested it would hinder the port’s competitiveness.

Cr Michael Laws said New Zealand’s biggest trading partner, China, did not have a positive human rights record.

Cr Weir said they were confused by the "shock" around the table as the port company had earlier indicated it was pursuing such a strategy.

"It doesn’t force them to prevent human rights violations in every circumstance in the supply chain."