Strong result for lines firm after challenges

Celebrating Network Waitaki’s strong 2021 financial results are Waitaki Power Trust trustees ...
Celebrating Network Waitaki’s strong 2021 financial results are Waitaki Power Trust trustees (from left) Doreen Cleave, Jock Webster, Lichelle Guyan, John Clements and Herb Tonkin. PHOTO: REBECCA RYAN
Network Waitaki’s 2021 financial results have exceeded all expectations.

Despite the disruption of Covid-19, the Oamaru lines company recorded a $6.25million net profit, almost double its $3.2million target and exceeding the previous year’s $4.2million profit.

Network Waitaki chief executive Geoff Douch said the 2021 financial year had been challenging, with ‘‘some extreme highs, and some extreme lows’’.

When New Zealand went into Level 4 lockdown, the company’s top priority was to keep people’s lights on and homes powered, while planned work was put on hold.

It also faced major challenges in October, when the Livingstone and Ohau fires caused significant damage to its lines network, and supply was affected for an extended period.

But Network Waitaki rose to the challenges, and was able to grow its total revenue from $25.7million in 2020 to $29.1million in 2021.

Part of the growth could be contributed to a dry summer, driving more irrigation use, but the company had also focused on increasing its contract work outside the district, Mr Douch said.

‘‘The more money we can make outside the Waitaki region, the more money we can bring back, and it keeps electricity affordable for local consumers.’’

Last year, the company invested $10.9million into its network, plant and equipment.

‘‘We’re growing the business, we’re making money, we’re reinvesting the money and we’re performing really well.’’

Through its discount scheme, $1.48million was returned to consumers by way of reduced power bills. The company also financially supported many community initiatives.

Network Waitaki is 100% owned by the Waitaki Power Trust, and its financial results were presented at the trust’s annual meeting at the Oamaru Opera House on Monday night.

Before the meeting started, trust chairman John Clements paid tribute to the late Dr Helen Brookes and Tony Brady.

Dr Brookes was a trustee until her death in May this year, and Mr Brady, who died last year, also served as a trustee. They both put a lot of time and effort into the trust, Mr Clements said.

Lichelle Guyan has been appointed to the trust, to replace Dr Brookes, until the next election.

When New Zealand went into lockdown last year, the trust was not sure what the year would bring for Network Waitaki, trustee Doreen Cleave said.

‘‘But the financial result for the 2021 year exceeds our greatest expectations,’’ Ms Cleave said.

Network Waitaki’s ownership was last reviewed in 2011, and another review would be conducted this year.

The directors of the company had engaged Deloitte to analyse the current trust ownership model and present alternative options for consideration.

The report would be made public, and feedback would be sought from Waitaki residents before the trust made a recommendation.

‘‘It’s up to you, as consumers, to encourage others to submit and don’t just sit back and say ‘we’ll let somebody else do that’,’’ trustee Jock Webster told those at Monday night’s meeting.

Some concerns were raised about privatisation, or a government takeover.

Mr Clements said there had been takeover bids in the past that had not been accepted, and trustees told those at the meeting the community should not be afraid of speaking up.

rebecca.ryan@odt.co.nz

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