Charity begins at home for new boss

By David Porter

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Tony Gill says his main task is to keep the trust working with the community. Photo / Stephen Parker
Tony Gill says his main task is to keep the trust working with the community. Photo / Stephen Parker

Tony Gill's appointment as Rotorua Energy Charitable Trust's new manager has allowed him to reconnect with family and friends in the city where his parents still live.

Mr Gill was born in Wellington, but brought up from the age of 5 in Rotorua where he attended St Mary's Primary and the former Edmund Rice College (John Paul College). His career in commercial and sponsorship management roles includes most recently spending a dozen years as national grants manager with the New Zealand Community Trust in Wellington.

"The grant manager role at a gaming trust is pretty full on," said Mr Gill, whose team handled about 400 applications a month from a range of sporting and community groups, including many from Rotorua.

"We had a very strong focus on ensuring compliance with gambling regulations along with trust policies and funding priorities. It was really good experience for what I am going to be doing now. This was a chance to come back to a place I love and take up a job I think I can do something with."

The new role has been significantly restructured from that held by former long-term chief executive Stuart Burns, whose position was disestablished when the trust decided to outsource management of the fund to Mercer Financial Services, and financial reporting and accounting to BDO.

"My role is primarily to make sure the trust stays really connected with its community.

"We've got really long-standing and passionate trustees. In an operational sense, they want anyone to be able to walk in here and have a chat about how we can make Rotorua a better place. My ability to talk to people is one of the things they have brought on board."

Trust chairman Grahame Hall said the organisation was fortunate to have Mr Gill.

"He brings with him all that experience, plus an energy and enthusiasm we're looking forward to sharing with him. He's got some fresh ideas and I think we'll see him taking the initiative on some of those ideas."

Mr Gill completed a bachelor of management studies in marketing and economics at Waikato University, and went to work as a regional sales manager for Diners Club, then the dominant credit card issuer. His territory included Rotorua and the central plateau, but after a year on the road, he moved to head office in Auckland.

In 1987 he joined Trust Bank in Waikato as an assistant marketing manager, becoming marketing manager after a couple of years and staying on until the bank was acquired and merged with Westpac in the 1990s.

Although most of the Trust Bank marketing manager positions were disestablished, he kept his role looking after the top half of the North Island (with the exception of central Auckland). He then became sponsorship manager for Westpac Trust, based in Hamilton and in 2001 responded to a company request to relocate to the head office in Wellington.

"But within 12 months they moved the head office to Auckland."

Mr Gill and his family decided to stay on in Wellington and he initially took a 12-month contract working with CCS Disability Action (the former Crippled Children's Society).

Then he was shoulder-tapped by the NZ Community Trust to become national grants manager, and stayed in the role for almost 12 years before taking up his new role in Rotorua last month.

The Rotorua Energy Charitable Trust was set up in 1994 when it received 51 per cent of the shares resulting from the corporatisation of the Rotorua Electricity Company. The fund size has grown from $32 million to $150 million, with more than $100 million in grants passed back to the community.

Mr Gill said a key lesson from his years at the gaming trust, where his team was responsible for about $40 million in grants annually, was the need for probity.

"You needed to have the processes to make sure you were transparent and making the right decisions in terms of what the act would allow you to do," he said.

"And you had to be fair and reasonable, which meant having systems in place so that all grant applicants had a good opportunity to make their case. I'm bringing to Rotorua Trust the discipline of working in that environment for such a long time. We have good processes here, but there's a chance we can do things even better."

Tony Gill:

* Role: Manager, Rotorua Energy Charitable Trust

* Born: Wellington, New Zealand

* Age: 55

* First job: Sales manager

* Recently read: The Girl in the Spider's Web by David Lagercrantz

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