Reactions reflect make-up of shareholding

Peter Jolly
Peter Jolly
Although there may be ''positivity and optimism'' among some Tarras Water Ltd shareholders, others have labelled that as propaganda and will be making submissions to the Otago Regional Council, appealing for it not to support the scheme.

A statement was released this week in which one of the company's directors, Peter Jolly, said the mood at a recent shareholders' meeting was ''one of great positivity and optimism'' after six resolutions paving the way for the company to release its prospectus ''were voted on and overwhelmingly approved by 95% of shareholders and proxies attending the special general meeting''.

However, he has since said the 95% refers to shareholdings, not shareholders.

There were 41 shareholders in the company eligible to vote at the meeting but of those, only a few more than 10 make up the 95% the statement was referring to - they hold 95% of the shares.

They include the New Zealand Rural Property Trust, not just Tarras farmers.

According to the Companies Office, Mr Jolly held 24.05% of the shares, although he said his vote was restricted to 20% by the company's old constitution (a new one was voted on at the meeting).

Of the company's 5211 shares, 200 were not voted for at the meeting, he said.

One of the smaller shareholders, who did not wish to be named, said the statement claiming ''positivity and optimism'' was propaganda and that they knew of about six small shareholders who were fed up and would be making submissions to the regional council, urging it not to support the scheme.

For him, the decision not to continue with the scheme, and to make a submission to the council, was two-fold - the scheme was personally too expensive and he, like other small shareholders, thought it wrong if public money was to be spent on it. He said many small shareholders had questioned the board of directors but were left dissatisfied with the answers.

Another small shareholder, Irene Schrieber, said that was ''pretty much how it's been all along''. She said communication between the directors, the large shareholders, and the small shareholders had been lacking, almost to the point of being non-existent, especially when it came to the design of the scheme.

''It's the top five or six shareholders who carry the vote [top six hold 84% of shares] and we don't really have an impact at all.

''It feels like we're only important when they want to talk about 41 shareholders.''

She said she was not against the scheme and would probably sign up for a couple of shares but it was no longer the community scheme it was being sold as and, for that reason, she, too, disagreed with ratepayers footing part of the bill.

Mr Jolly said from the beginning, it was designed to be a community scheme and the company had been told by the regional council to design it in a way that would include the most people possible.

Although the scheme would not reach everyone in the Tarras district, for economic reasons and because some did not need it, he still thought of it as a community scheme.

As to small shareholders not wishing to continue with the irrigation scheme, that was up to them, Mr Jolly said.

''At the end of the day, that's their choice. We gave them the opportunity and if they don't wish to do it then that's their decision.''

Submissions can be made on the regional council's long-term plan, which includes proposed investment in the irrigation scheme, until May 3.

Investment in the scheme accounts for 2.4% of the proposed general rate increase.

- sarah.marquet@odt.co.nz

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