Boult eager to push DCC on helping fund Aurora's upgrade

Jim Boult
Jim Boult
Queenstown Mayor Jim Boult says he is serious about pushing the Dunedin City Council to help fund the regeneration of Aurora's lines network.

Mr Boult said he had asked senior staff at the Queenstown Lakes District Council to investigate the issue and an approach to the DCC would follow depending on their findings.

Mr Boult's comments came after Aurora, a DCC-owned company, this week released its draft pricing structure, outlining a three-year, $400million plan to tackle ageing electricity infrastructure and future-proof it, across Dunedin, Central Otago and Queenstown.

To pay for it, Aurora was seeking a customised price path allowing it to hike line charges by up to $21 a month in 2022 and $10 a month in 2023 and 2024.

Mr Boult reacted with "deep concern and disappointment" to the plan on Tuesday, suggesting the DCC should make a capital contribution to Aurora to offset the "highly inflated dividends" it had secured in the past.

Yesterday, he was not just "venting frustration".

"It's a genuine belief that the dividends taken out of Aurora by DCC were excessive."

QLDC staff would take a "deeper look" at the whole issue, including the level of dividends, the proposed price increases "and whether there's another way to address this".

Once that work was completed, "then perhaps we may go to the DCC and ask if they can consider this formally".

The investigation would also shape a QLDC submission to the Commerce Commission on the proposed increases, which the council would strongly oppose.

Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan said he needed to discuss the "complex" situation with councillors but expected his council would also submit in opposition to the changes.

He could not yet say if further steps - like those outlined by Mr Boult - would also be considered, but it was "safe to say" his councillors and community were "not happy".

Mr Boult said he also needed more information to inform the council's next steps, but past dividends paid by Aurora to the DCC already seemed "pretty high".

The company had a responsibility, before paying dividends, to ensure its infrastructure was sound and fit for the future, "and clearly it wasn't".

"If they'd spent some money on preventative maintenance some years back, it would've cost a whole lot less than it's costing now."

Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins would not be drawn directly on whether Mr Boult had a point, except to express relief that the "historic approach" to asset management was "thankfully a thing of the past".

He would "look forward" to seeing the results of QLDC investigations into dividends, but insisted it was the Commerce Commission - not the DCC - which would "ultimately decide what is fair and reasonable".

In 2016, the ODT reported $150million had been stripped from Aurora's books since 2003, and a further $55.5million from then-related company Delta since 1998, and transferred to the DCC's books, helping offset rates.



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Seems our CV increases have arrived at just the right time. Watch this space. We shall all have the privilage of returning the excessive dividends back to Aurora as will be directed by the Commerce Commission. We, the ratepayers will be cap in hand to Queenstown and surrounding areas doing urgent repairs and maintainance. Why? simply due to the fact this council has not been run fiscally well for a VERY long time. Best we forget about extravagence and fantasy bridges for a while councillors. Confidence is being lost. Hawkins has virtually nothing to say and Carey is no where to be seen. Where is our council exactly?
And for those who say your rates DON'T increase with CV increases, read your statements. And by the way.....the rubbish saga is to be played out soon, get your wallets ready!

A matter of record on DCC council meeting videos that Cr Vandervis was the only elected rep at public meeting to call attention to the fact that Aurora was borrowing in order to pay dividends. All the rest seemed to not know, or not care or think it was none of the Councillors’ and Mayor’s business. Technically, it isn’t. But still to the benefit of local residents to pay attention to what was arguably a fraudulent ‘profit’. But too late now to close the stable door after the horse has well and truly bolted.

Oddly enough I have contacted every mayor in the region, most of them on multiple occassions, offering to sit down and talk with them about this.

As the person who raised the issue, at considerable personal expense, the person who - for three years - has tried to alert the community where this was heading and the person who predicted exactly the price rises that the Dunedin City Council is trying to implement, I had thought they might be interested.

Apparently not.

The characteristic fate of whistleblowers. Not even recognised at ‘I told you so.’ time. Despite this NZ, still seems to have plenty of people who feel they must do the right thing despite personal cost. Time will tell eventually.

"Hawkins would not be drawn directly on whether Mr Boult had a point, except to express relief that the "historic approach" to asset management was "thankfully a thing of the past".

He would "look forward" to seeing the results of QLDC investigations into dividends, but insisted it was the Commerce Commission - not the DCC - which would "ultimately decide what is fair and reasonable"
As usual he lets others take the heat and do his thinking for him, no leadership there then.
Looking forward to yet more rates increases........... not!.

New poles are an improved asset value to the company - shareholders should pay for increased asset value or it comes out of reserves. Them same, get the benefit of depreciation on those increased valued assets to write off tax on profit. If they have to borrow then that is an expense against profit reducing tax so why does the consumer have to pay for a shareholder's increase in asset value. We pay for the cost of servicing and a percentage return on the asset. However, as each year the asset is depreciated is the consumer to have a declining cost each year? I do not understand why the consumer has to pay such a high increase in cost for what primarily is shareholder gain in value.

The machinations of finance are carefully choreographed to channel wealth to the tables that display the silver spoons. Every possible loop hole is exploited to the very edges of the law. It is accepted that the ratepayers amongst the working class are too busy trying to provide for their families and keep a roof over their heads. Surely, as the rain falls, they shall not notice how exactly their money is spent and who exactly controls the spending.

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