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A lot of interest in their activities


Last night's annual meeting of Trust Tairawhiti drew a good crowd to the Gisborne Boys' High School hall, a new venue for the AGM and an appropriate one for the launch of He Rangitapu, He Tohu Ora Tairawhiti Wellbeing Framework — with one focus of this new tool for informing the trust's distributions and investments being the education, health and happiness of our children and young people.

Notably absent from the launch of the framework, which has been developed through extensive community engagement over the past year, was discussion of the amount the trust would apply to regional wellbeing over coming years.

Last year there was a pledge to distribute up to $120m over the following five to six years. This year chairman Paul Reynolds talked about the life of the trust to 2073 and the fact $128.1m was currently the figure seen as being available to income beneficiaries. The trust deed requires the trustees to “preserve” the capital of the trust, which now amounts to $377.3m in total, and the portion of that seen to meet this requirement is now $249.2m.

With Covid impacts still playing out, so its key asset Eastland Group has less certainty around profitability — and is also seeing about $7m removed from the bottom line of its network business due to new regulated pricing — it is prudent that the trust is cautious just now.

Its equity would actually have declined over the past year if not for the $47.5m revaluation upwards of EGL's generation business. But as CEO Matt Todd said last night, the $43m lift in value for the 25MW Te Ahi o Maui geothermal plant is a good sign that this asset will generate strong returns over its life for the group and Trust Tairawhiti. It will also have given them further confidence as they investigate developing a third geothermal plant.

At this point it is worth repeating the trust CEO's comment to The Herald this week, that the trust was in discussions with EGL on options to release some capital from the company over the next five years, to help fund its growth and provide special dividends back to the trust.

This is all of huge interest to the public of Tairawhiti and it was discouraging that there was so much stress placed last night on the fact it was the trust's AGM, not Eastland Group's. The trustees might be the owners of EGL, but that is on our behalf. We are all its beneficiaries and many of us want to be aware of the financial performance of the group as well as the trust before the one time each year that they front on these matters to their community.