Elder officially called to front committee

By Kate Shuttleworth

Former Solid Energy CEO Don Elder appearing at the Pike River inquiry in 2011. Elder has been asked to appear before the Commerce select committee in Parliament on Thursday. Pool Photo / The Press.
Former Solid Energy CEO Don Elder appearing at the Pike River inquiry in 2011. Elder has been asked to appear before the Commerce select committee in Parliament on Thursday. Pool Photo / The Press.

The former head of Solid Energy has been called to front up to a parliamentary committee to answer tough questions on the failing coal company after opposition was dropped by National MPs.

Commerce committee chairman Jonathan Young wrote to former chief executive Don Elder inviting him to front at Thursday's meeting saying the weight of public opinion would be enough to make him front and a subpoena wouldn't be necessary.

Last week current heads of the company, chairman Mark Ford and interim chief executive Garry Diack spoke to the committee and couldn't answer most questions on the company's $389 million debt.

Ford blamed the troubles at the company on falling coal prices.

Opposition MPs, led by Labour's state owned enterprises spokesman Clayton Cosgrove, urged Young to call a vote to issue a subpoena forcing Elder to give evidence to the committee - National MPs looked to block the move at the time.

He said it was discussed at the committee a month ago whether Elder should appear in order to put make his side of the story public, while giving the committee and the public the chance to ask the hard questions.

"In response to the public interest I felt that it would be good to invite him sooner rather than later.

"I think a simple invitation extended to him is appropriate.

"I would assume that he would want to appear, because he has received a lot of criticism - I don't think it will be an easy appearance for him by any means. I think he deserves the right to put his side of the story," said Young.

Elder is still receiving his $1.3 million salary until April while acting in an advisory capacity from home.

Cosgrove said he believed Elder's exit in April would be punctuated with a payment of $1 million.

Cosgrove has also called for former chairman John Palmer to appear to explain.

In the last financial year Solid Energy lost $40 million and subsequently axed 450 jobs nationwide plus around 240 jobs at Westport's Stockton mine.

Speaking from Chile last week Prime Minister John Key said he had no problem with Elder appearing at the committee to answer questions about the problems at Solid Energy.

- APNZ

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