If it isn't broken, why fix it?

This is the big question a group of Trustpower consumers want to know after the controversial proposal to axe the annual cheque mail-out.

Tauranga Energy Consumer Trust's six trustees have been fronting up to answer questions from some of Trustpower's 58,000 Western Bay customers in a series of "informal sessions".

Read more: Opinion: TECT proposal will benefit community


About 40 people attended the second session at Hotel Armitage today to quiz trustees face to face.

TECT chairman Bill Holland told the Bay of Plenty Times the 40 interested consumers was double the turnout for the first session in Te Puke.

He said more than 1300 submissions had already been received and most consumers were concerned that if "it wasn't broken, why fix it"?

"We think something is going to happen and, with all of those risks out there, we think something does need to change," Holland said.

"But the best way to deal with change is to get in there before that change happens."

Holland said it was an important matter and the trustees wanted to hear what the public wanted.

"We are treating this as a binding referendum. If the people want to stick with the status quo, that is what we will do. But we want to make sure they are making informed decisions."

Tauranga resident Colleen Maher said she had attended the information session to have her say on keeping the TECT cheque.

"We are trying to get our voices heard," she said. "About 56,000 consumers are not being heard. We have been loyal customers for 20-plus years."

Maher said consumers were, in her opinion, being made to look like "idiots" and manipulated with a one-off $2500 cheque.

"The one reason they want to do it is to manipulate people," she said, expressing her opinion. "I also want to know how and who will be reading 56,000 submissions?"

The form being put out for proposal was also misconstrued, Maher said. She was of the view that "it is all very one-sided".

Tauranga's Phil Simpson said it was time for a change but he hoped the trust would operate like a corporate board which held an appropriate level of responsibility.

"It needs to be very transparent," Simpson said. "I am not fazed about the money, it is the principle."

Simpson said plenty of information had been given to the public, but it was all from TECT.

Ron Chamberlain said he was against the idea of getting rid of the TECT cheque.

"I can't see what the urgency is," he said.

Chamberlain said consumers should not be tempted by the $2500 lump sum and instead consider the future.

TECT proposes to phase out the cheques over the next five years - starting with a one-off compensation cheque worth $2500.

The trustees want to change the structure from a consumer trust to a charitable trust in which the income from its $650m shareholding in Trustpower and $170m diversified investment portfolio was channelled into supporting community groups and projects.

After considering submissions, the trustees decided to press ahead with the restructuring, and the issue would be decided by a binding referendum of Trustpower customers.

TECT's consumer information sessions:
February 15: Katikati Memorial Hall, 4-7pm
February 16: Daniels in the Park, 53 11th Ave, 11am-2pm