Ethical call costs council $380k

By Timothy Brown

Dunedin City Council's Waipori Fund held positions in four equities that were against the ethical investment policy when it was adopted last April. Photo / Dunedin City Council
Dunedin City Council's Waipori Fund held positions in four equities that were against the ethical investment policy when it was adopted last April. Photo / Dunedin City Council

Ethical investment has come with a price tag of more than $380,000 for a council fund.

The Dunedin City Council's Waipori Fund held positions in four equities that were against the ethical investment policy when it was adopted last April.

It was revealed at last week's finance committee meeting that the policy had caused losses to the fund, although the extent of those losses were not available.

But group chief financial officer Grant McKenzie confirmed the losses from selling the equities totalled $380,810.

Shares in the four equities - BHP, Origin, Rio Tinto and Woodside Petroleum - were bought for $1.568 million all up. When the policy was adopted on April 28 last year, they were worth $1.523 million.

All four were eventually sold for a total of $1.187 million.

Mr McKenzie said had the shares still been held, they would have accumulated an extra loss of $149,755 based on end-of-March share prices.

The equities had been sold on the recommendation of the fund's manager, in line with the ethical investment policy.

When the policy was adopted, a two-year grace period was allowed to exit the positions, but divestment was completed within 10 months.

All the funds had been reinvested, in a mix of equities and bonds, but Mr McKenzie did not say how the new buys had performed compared with the equities they replaced.

More than half a million dollars worth of shares in petroleum companies and about $400,000 of SkyCity shares were also sold, in late 2014, before the policy began.

The losses have annoyed councillor Andrew Whiley, who had opposed the policy.

"If we had held on to these shares for three years and watched them bounce back we would have been fine."

He believed the fund had been hijacked by the political ideologies of some councillors and did not reflect the views of the wider community.

Mayor Dave Cull said he was "absolutely" comfortable with the policy. The ongoing fall of the equities after their sale showed the council had made the right decision. "It's a pity we didn't do it earlier."

- NZ Herald

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