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The Entrust election debacle

Written By: - Date published: 10:43 am, October 31st, 2021 - 56 comments
Categories: C&R, climate change, elections, science, uncategorized, you couldn't make this shit up - Tags:

A recent election managed to get less than one in ten eligible people voting.

You may wonder how bad a campaign needs to be run to get this sort of turnout.  Even Local Government in Auckland with its complex multiple races and a candidate book to read and the need to rank the Health Board candidates in preferential order last time managed a 35% turnout.

This is a strange election.  The incumbents get to decide on how much to pay the returning officer to run the election and this of course will determine how effective the turnout campaign is.  And it appears they may have watched how the Republicans have suppressed US turnout to their advantage.  In fact my impression is that they could give Trump’s lot some lessons.

Entrust holds $3 billion of Vector shares.  Vector owns the local electricity distribution assets.  National aligned C&R has dominated the board since its creation back in the Ruthenasia days of 1993.

The trust gets to distribute dividends from these shares to the beneficiaries of the trust which are the residents of the Istmus and South Auckland.

But it appears that the benefits for some reason are not shared equally.  For instance the Trust has a power line undergrounding fund.  But weirdly South Auckland misses out on undergrounding while at the same time Remuera, Freemans Bay, Epsom, Parnell and Herne Bay gets more undergrounding projects than anywhere else.

This year a group of progressives under the banner of More for You Better for the Climate stood hoping to gain power and change the way that Vector works.  They stood on a platform of lowering household costs and having a climate change focus.  They came agonisingly close to gaining power with Urban Designer Emma McInnes falling short by 739 votes.

Who were they up against?  A professional company director, an electrical engineer, an accountant, and two former National Party MPs.

With a turnout of 9.64% you have to wonder who ran such a clusterfuck of a campaign.

It appears that part of the problem is partially structural.  Entrust’s trust deed, which controls the operation of the trust, provides:

As soon as practicable after the 16th day before the Election Date, and in any case not later than the 10th day before the Election Date, the returning officer shall distribute to each Consumer at that Consumer’s address as shown on the Roll, and in such manner as the returning officer considers appropriate”.

This timeline may have worked a decade ago when post deliveries happened daily and there were post offices and post boxes throughout the country.  But with significantly reduced infrastructure this posed a significant problem.  Check out Twitter for multiple examples where voting papers either did not arrive in time or did not arrive at all.

Resourcing was obviously an issue.  Progressives complained about there being little if no advertising for the campaign.  The only group that appeared to be pushing the campaign were the More For You campaign team and their supporters.

The Trust deed says:

The returning officer shall be entitled to utilise the services of such persons as the returning officer may deem appropriate, and to require that the cost of such services be met out of the Trust Fund. In the event of doubt or dispute as to any matter affecting such an election, the returning officer shall be entitled to resolve such doubt or dispute, and the decision of the returning officer shall be final and conclusive.

But it also says:

The returning officer shall be entitled to receive such reasonable remuneration and reimbursement of expenses as the Trustees shall determine after consultation with the returning officer.

So you get exactly the campaign that you pay for and if you pay the returning officer a budget amount and not pay them to do the work to advertise properly then no advertising will happen.

The second aspect of the campaign which is mind boggling unfair is that Entrust gets to trumpet the payment of the annual dividend to consumers and in election year around the time that the voting papers are sent out.  Instead of just crediting their power account and at considerable expense and in santa claus fashion they send out cheques to consumers or letters confirming that the amount has been paid into their accounts.  Check out how complex the process is.

Predictably turnout heavily skewered wealthy areas and I suspect that the more wealthy in poorer areas were also the likely ones to vote.  This was a graphic from near the end of the voting period before final votes were count but you get the message.

There needs to be an urgent inquiry into the running of this election.  And any board that ran a campaign that had less than one in ten people vote should be sacked for incompetence.

56 comments on “The Entrust election debacle ”

  1. Patricia Bremner 1

    Absolutely. That is an example of vote suppression if ever there was!! Who ever faces them next time needs to say "Where were you when 10% voted this lot in? Have your say. Vote them out for better more representative Board.

  2. Jared 2

    I’m not disputing how unfair the election was conducted, however the argument that suburbs only received undergrounding because they are “rich” is an incredibly bad faith allegation from More for you better for climate. A significant number of suburbs included in the above infographic are already undergrounded. Further the “rich” suburbs are predominately older leafier suburbs that were the first to get electrified. There are plenty of arguments/criticisms of the current board to be made but this ain’t one.

    • mickysavage 2.1

      Why do you say that? The preference seems pretty startling whatever the justification is.

    • Ad 2.2

      Check out all the undergrounding Vector have done in the areas they service which are not in the Trust beneficiary area ie the west and north of Auckland.

        • ghostwhowalksnz

          Thats why they arent beneficaries of Entrust. Those consumers took the money when their power board was corporatised.

          The undergrounding cost comes out of Entrust beneficaries account and reduces the dividend/power credit paid out

          Im happy for those North West and Franklin areas to pay a surcharge on their bills to support undergrounding in their areas.

          • cathy-o

            actually those beneficiaries in the west and north (account holders in the WEPB) had no choice about taking the money, the power board just sent the account holders their “share”. as i recall it amounted to some 3000 odd shares giving about $1000.00 in value

            and at about a month before christmas, sharebrokers had tables outside the toy warehouse with signs saying “sell your shares here”

            scarcely a year later those 3000 odd share packages were worth something like $4000.00

            the figures may be a bit wonky because it was many years ago, but you get the picture.

            • ghostwhowalksnz

              Yes. Most sold they got paid End of story.

              Do they get another payout because the Vector shareholders bought the business with their own money ?

              There was a lot of pressure on the Entrust at the time to sell its 100% but it never happened fortunately but they did get new capital to expand diluting Entrust to 75%.

              Of course in hindsight many of the asset sales were economic lunacy.

              We bought back Kiwirail, Air NZ and even the old Post Office exchanges and lines as taxpayers now own 63% of Chorus.

              • cathy-o

                "Yes. Most sold they got paid End of story."

                true, end of story. the slimy tactics to effectively cheat people who'd never owned a share of anything in their life, don't change that.

                "Do they get another payout because the Vector shareholders bought the business with their own money ?"

                no, because west and north were account holders in the WEPB, Waitemata Electric Power Board, whereas the Entrust is what's left of the AEPB, Auckland Electric Power Board. a completely different entity. and those people who get their annual dividend from entrust do so because they are account holders,

                • ghostwhowalksnz

                  I know which areas were covered by WEPB and AEPB.

                  The current situation is that Vector bought the lines company that ran the old WEPB area power lines.

                  The history of it was WEPB and Thames Valley PB were corporatised as Power NZ, handed out shares to their consumers , a later takeover bought out all shareholders.

                  WEPB consumers have already been paid a lump sum for their assets 30 years ago.

                  They arent getting them back for nothing.

                  Entrust is the best sort of consumer trust, I cant sell my 'share' or buy someone elses. They belong in common TRUST for all the consumers of the old AEPB area. Through investing the returns and more capital from 25% of the ownership its grown to BUY much much more than what it started with ( including the old WEPB area). It has a local gas network too.

                  Because the election is poor turnout isnt a reason to change the underlying structure.

  3. Bryan 3

    The alphabetic listing on the ballot and the candidate profiles also alphabetically and those elected clearly demonstrate the phenomenon of voter bias to candidates at the top of the voter list. My recall, from before I threw out the voting papers, is that three of the four C & R incumbents appear first on the ballot and candidate profiles.

    Seven of the nine other candidates were below the C & R heroes on the ballot.

    I am sure the toadies duly elected won't be rushing to change anything ever.

    • alwyn 3.1

      So, are we to understand that you are eligible to vote, received the voting papers, read them and then decided not to bother voting so you threw the papers out?

      You have no right at all to complain about the result. If you couldn't be bothered voting you are in no position to complain about the outcome.

      • Bryan 3.1.1

        No complaint about the result dearie – it was a forgone conclusion.
        I suggest you climb off your high horse.

      • lprent 3.1.2

        You have no right at all to complain about the result. If you couldn’t be bothered voting you are in no position to complain about the outcome.

        My partner does have cause to complain. We seem to get two post deliveries a week. Since I go out to a workplace daily as she works, I try to clear the mailbox in the apartment foyer at least once a week. We got the mail way too late to consider the vote because there were only a few days between receiving the forma and when it had to mailed by. The ‘election’ was frigging debacle from a stakeholder or voter perspective. [updated Para]

        It was in our letter box on a Friday evening. I dropped it on her desk as she pays the power bill and it was addressed to her. She opened on Monday, put it aside to read and vote after she read it.

        That happened on Wednesday, after the latest it could be posted (assuming a post box could be found). She showed it to me on Friday morning, asking if I could drive to East Tamaki to drop it off before it closed. Needless to say I had to work, and taking an hour out of my day wasn't possible.

        As MS said, this 'election' was a debacle. I am pretty sure that it would also violate the requirements of any act, commercial or civil, that governed it because it didn't provide a reasonable period for considering how to vote. And the booklet with the voting paper was the first notice of who any of the candidates were.

        And that is before considering the current lockdown under emergency health orders – which should have triggered changes in the voting procedures.

        If this was a company, the directors of the company would be prosecutable under the commerce acts. I must look up the legislation to see who was responsible in this case.

  4. ghostwhowalksnz 4

    The reason for the low turnout, seems to me to be related to its outside the normal local body election period. That may be deliberate.

    Also Alistair Bell has strong National party connections, being until very recently a main Board Member and well connected to the Auckland region of party

    • Gypsy 4.1

      The M4YB4C is essentially City Vision/Labour in drag. City Vision/Labour have dominated Auckland Council in recent years, including 2 consecutive Labour aligned mayors. City Vision is a tribal political organisation, that is well organised and disciplined. I would prefer to see central government politics taken right out of local government, but it ain't going to happen.

      • ghostwhowalksnz 4.1.1

        City Vision havent dominated Auckland Council at all.

        The mayor is independent, he wasnt 'selected by city vision' but may have been endorsed.

        Checking the 2019 election results 2 City Vision. 4 Labour. 3 Citizens Ratepayers.

        8 independents or local ticket.

        The Green party ran in the Whau ward and we lost sitting labour councillor to CR

        that gives 6 of 18 councillors . Which is 1/3.

        • Gypsy

          "City Vision havent dominated Auckland Council at all."

          I said "Labour/City Vision".

          "The mayor is independent, he wasnt 'selected by city vision' but may have been endorsed."

          What total bullshit. The Auckland Mayor is Phil Goff. Do you know who Phil Goff is? He is tribal labour.

          The way Goff works is that he has an 'A' team that operate as a tight cabal. He shares information with that team, and not with others. He appoints those people to key committee chairs and other power positions. Most of his 'A Team' are Labour/CV, one is C&R. This is a CV/Labour dominated Council.

          EDIT: Phil Goffs bio:
          Labour Party MP from 1981-1990, 1993-2016.
          Leader of the Labour Party 2008-2011
          Served as Minister of Justice, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Minister of Defence, and Associate Minister of Finance in Labour governments.

          But yes, of course he’s independent. /sarc.

        • Gypsy

          BTW, of the 8 independents, Team Franklin (x1), Taking the Shore Forward (x1), A Positive Voice for the Shore (x1), and one Waitakere councillor who are CV/Labour in drag. So that's 10 + the mayor. At least. Without the one or two others who also work with them, CV/Labour have a clear majority.

          • ghostwhowalksnz

            Work with them isnt 'in drag'. How can CV or Labour 'whip' councillors who arent on their team and selected by them? Say Team Franklin , who I understand is a rural farmer with little in common with inner city CV stalwart Kathy Casey

            Most of the council decisions arent really partisan politics.

            The old Auckland City Council had the CR majority caucus together before main meetings to decide on their vote and the CR Team leader and deputy Mayor was the effective leader of the Council

            Dont think anything like that happens with Auckland Council.

            • Gypsy

              "How can CV or Labour 'whip' councillors who arent on their team and selected by them?"

              Goff does it by exclusion. He gets a close group around him, and feeds them information which he excludes from others. He appoints his 'teachers pets' to influential positions. It's typical exclusion politics.

              "Say Team Franklin , who I understand is a rural farmer with little in common with inner city CV stalwart Kathy Casey"

              Team Franklin is the Deputy Mayor. He is firmly in the Goff cabal. As is Cathy Casey. Thank goodness she’s retiring.

              "Most of the council decisions arent really partisan politics."

              "Dont think anything like that happens with Auckland Council."

              The Auckland council is poisoned with partisan politics, and it is significantly worse under his mayor than the previous hapless edition.

  5. Ad 5

    An adventurous government would replace the Watercare assets it is stripping away from Auckland Council with giving it back the 75% of Vector still in Trust ownership, by legislation.

    Auckland Council would gain much-needed income, and integrate undergrounding with town centre renewal and transport corridor renewal.

    Needs to be an end-around-run instead of this cumbersome election process that serves no-one much good.

    • millsy 5.1

      Sounds good on paper, but that would mean that a lot of Aucklanders, especially those on lower incomes, lose their dividends.

      Better for the government to buy the 25% that is listed and transfer it to Auckland Council.

      • Ad 5.1.1

        It's a fairer policy outcome for all Aucklanders to benefit, rather than the continued minority.

        No need to worry it won't happen.

    • ghostwhowalksnz 5.2

      Entrust shares are not in public ownership like Councils water related assets.

      They belong to the consumers who pay power bills – not land owners who pay rates.

      It would be inequitable as North and West consumers were give $3000 worth of lines companies shares at the time the old Waitemata EPB was corporatised. Most took the money of course. That $3000 was 1990 value too.

      Now you want to take something belonging to consumers including renters and hand it over to ratepayers

      • millsy 5.2.1

        Who can blame them for taking the money, when it is more $5000 in today's money.

        • mickysavage

          We did not have a choice. The decision was made for us.

          • ghostwhowalksnz

            And got recompense to the tune of $3000 or so.

            No double dipping now taken from those who didnt get a windfall.

            The idea that it goes to Auckland council is preposterous. Do those who own land in Auckland city get an ever greater benefit.

            • mickysavage

              The current model will mean that a self replacing clique will continue to control major assets and continue to make decisions so that a politically beneficial dividend continues to be paid and so that Remuera can get its power cables undergrounded.

              • alwyn

                "The current model will mean that a self replacing clique will continue to control major assets and continue to make decisions".

                All you need to do is to replace the words "current model" with "proposed three waters model" and you will have an perfect description of what the current Government is planning to implement.

                The proposed three waters model will mean that a self replacing clique will continue to control major assets and continue to make decisions.

                • Gypsy

                  …a self replacing, unaccountable, unelected clique.

                  • ghostwhowalksnz

                    Watercare Services Ltd Board isnt 'elected' either

                    The Auckland Mayor selects the board but the Auckland Council as a collective body owns all the shares [260,693,164 in total] – but cant sell or choose the board either.

                    Thats a feature of that system removing the direct control that particular councils have had over the operations, especially the financial side.

                    Thus a West Coast Council gave a contract to rebuild a flood damaged waste water plant to an Auckland cake decorator.

                    Or Kaipara Council bungled the design and build of a new Mangawhai treatment system so it ended up costing $60 mill for 1200 people.

                    hasting District Council bugled their bore water system so that it killed a few people and made many more extremely sick

                    Whanganui Council contracted and had built a new wastewater treatment system which was found after coming into operation that the stench was unbearable to the city on the otherside of the river. It was then closed.($41 mill to rebuild)

                    Wellington is …well too many issues, but they seem to have underspent on everything , but famously wasted a large amount on a new concrete large scale storage tank on the side of MT Victoria. Like anybody building will know, changing your mind a few times while under construction will waste a lot of money.

                    All we have is someone claiming clique as a contrary view. There are plenty of things not to like but getting it all away from councillors is the best idea of the lot.
                    Many are living in a dreamland and dont see recurrent failures and wasted money. I havent even covered the fresh water problem.

                    • Gypsy

                      "Watercare Services Ltd Board isnt 'elected' either"
                      The role of the Entrust Trustees is not as a Board. Vector has a seperate Board. It's not a valid comparison.

                    • ghostwhowalksnz

                      The elected mayor appoints Watercare directors…the elected Entrust members as a group appoint the Vector board members (75% of vote)

                    • Gypsy

                      "The elected mayor appoints Watercare directors…"

                      Actually the elected Councillors do.

                      So the boards of watercare and vector are one step removed from the voters. That's bad enough, but the way the 3 waters boards will be chosen is that Councils and mana whenua would appoint a Regional Representative Group. This group would appoint an Independent Selection Panel. That panel would appoint the Entity Board. It sounds like a deliberate attempt to distance the Boards from the voters.

                    • ghostwhowalksnz

                      Thats its done by full Council is better than I thought

                      When you have multiple councils clearly you need some sort of 'panel' representing all those councils

                      We already have iwi panel to select the 2 unelected Auckland Councillors as decided in Hides Super City set up

                      But that is the clumsy part of the 3 waters system, doesnt change who the 'owners are'

                    • Gypsy

                      "We already have iwi panel to select the 2 unelected Auckland Councillors as decided in Hides Super City set up

                      But that is the clumsy part of the 3 waters system, doesnt change who the 'owners are'"

                      When the 'owners' have spent billions of dollars of ratepayers money building up assets, and then those 'owners' have effective control stripped from them, that is an entirely undemocratic move, wouldn't you agree?

            • roblogic

              So only people who paid a power bill were eligible for a dividend? Nice way to ignore thousands of taxpayers in shared accommodation or other arrangements who don't have a power account.

              Democracy only for the landed gentry.

              • ghostwhowalksnz

                Shared accomodation ?

                Surely the dividend for flatmates is shared equally. I know someone in Kainga Ora block of flats who has his own meter.

                Many account holders have the money credited to their power account…. isnt that a great idea if they share the bill

                • roblogic

                  I got no letter, no $$$

                  • ghostwhowalksnz

                    Sound like you arent in the Entrust voting/ dividend area. probably 40% of Auckland isnt

                    Or you have a shared accomodation where you dont pay a power bill, maybe a flat rate weekly amount ?

  6. DukeEll 6

    The problem is when you say “check out Twitter” only a small minority of people use Twitter politically and a far smaller percentage of that are swing voters. It appears the non C&r campaign on ran on social media, which isn’t a highly trusted medium right now. Whereas all over the city you can see C&R billboards that promise to retain paying out the dividend each year.

    blame the turnout, sure. But the alphabet soup lot had zero visibility amongst that 10% that bothered to vote

  7. observer 7

    Proposal: bring in the Democracy Bill.

    All local elections (DHBS, mayors, community boards, Entrust and so on) must be … real elections. Just like national ones. Polling stations, ad campaigns, the works.

    Could be held annually, say November (year 1 general election, year 2 locals, year 3 odds and sods). People go out to vote. Simple and effective.

    Sure, it will cost a bit more but postal ballots stopped being a feasible option years ago. "What is an envelope? What do I do with it?" asks most of the population.

    Voting is a habit, a precious one. We have a very successful electoral commission, producing high turnouts in general elections. Let them do the rest.

    • ghostwhowalksnz 7.1

      Ad campaigns ?

      An Ad campaign could cost $15k for minimal visibility across 1 million people, and even then its power bill holder who gets to vote not all residents.

      There real reason for so little interest is that Entrust is largely toothless holding company. There is only 1 Entrust elected person on Vector board ( Bell), the rest are usual professional director class

      Compared to results from 20 years ago ( 2003) the highest polling candidate got 26,000 votes, now its 16,000

  8. tc 8

    Yet another reason to nationalise electricity. Lines trust serve themselves first and foremost.

    Entrenched ticket clipping and political influence over investment or it’s lack thereof.

  9. Wind up the trust and give the beneficiaries the money

    • lprent 9.1

      And be at the complete mercy of the same kinds of short-sighted fools who have been maximizing dividends to shareholders and minimizing investment to the point that we're running at the limits of our grid and our generating resources?

      No thanks. Bad enough with the behavior of Vector now. I've had several outages this year because Vector had local overloading failures that they'd been warned about. Large numbers of new apartment blocks with attached retails and light industrial going up in a mixed use area is a pretty clear signal to increase capacity.

      Then they ignored the down-time they specified for the upgrade because they arbitrarily added extra deferred and un-required maintenance on to the tasks. Instead of having the UPS capacity to run this site for 3 hours, it was more like 8 hours of no power for my site and for a lot of people in the middle of winter.

      Next time they promise maintenance, I'll move the site off to a data center for a few days because Vector are unreliable service providers..

      • ghostwhowalksnz 9.1.1

        Vector doesnt generate electricity. They are a lines company who also deliver gas.

  10. Gypsy 10

    "You may wonder how bad a campaign needs to be run to get this sort of turnout. "

    My apologies, Micky. I had misunderstood your point so I deleted my first comment.

    My view on the low turnout is simply that people are so distracted at the moment with Covid etc. And that many people simply don't understand what Entrust actually does and what powers it has. I took the time to look at the backgrounds of the various candidates and both groups had some good people. Personally I dislike the tribal politics in local government. I have worked closely with two local boards and s handful of councillors in recent years, and have found good people across the political spectrum who I believe are being held back by caucusing from their political affiliations.

    • Patricia 2 10.1

      We only hear from the Entrust Board once a year when they send out the dividend cheque. You'd get the idea that the board is personally paying the dividend out of their own pockets. And the odd billboard goes up when voting time comes around with a big bright sticker "$303 Dividend" as though we are all easily bought and that's all that matters. I think the proceeds of the Trust will eventually revert to the Auckland Council ; vaguely remember some unrest a while back and attempts made to get the millions earlier ? It seems to me that the Trust is a nice little earner for failed politicians.

      • Gypsy 10.1.1

        How many of the current trustees are 'failed' politicians? Or even 'ex' politicians?

        • ghostwhowalksnz

          Its in the story . Maybe you read it ?

          • Gypsy

            Actually it isn't. The story only lists the C&R candidates, and only 2 out of 5 are ex politicians. There is no background given for the candidates of the other ticket.

            • ghostwhowalksnz

              You have a comprehension problem dont you…

              'How many of current trustees are former politicians'

              " A professional company director, an electrical engineer, an accountant, and two former National Party MPs.

              Hutchinson and Lee are ex Nats Mps, ( Bell was a Nats board member until recently not relected) but go ahead , find a way of unsaying what you said. Its so Trumpanzee of you.

              • Gypsy

                No. Patricia said "is a nice little earner for failed politicians." My question was rhetorical (you missed that bit), because only 2 of the current trustees are ex politicians.

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