A $21 million windfall is believed to be the first of its kind in the Tauranga Energy Consumer Trust's 26-year history.
As the trust seeks feedback from its 55,000 consumers on what to do with the unexpected money, its chairman says the decision will follow the majority view.
Bill Holland said the extra distribution in July would have no impact on the annual TECT cheque, which would be given out as usual in November.
The extra $21m, however, came as a "surprise".
"This is not money we ever expected to get."
The bonus is the result of a 25c-a-share dividend Trustpower announced in November last year. TECT is Trustpower's second-largest shareholder, holding 26.8 per cent of shares.
Holland was not aware of it happening before, and neither was former long-serving trustee Bruce Cronin.
Holland said TECT's investment earnings were usually split 80 per cent to individual consumers and 20 per cent to the community via grants to organisations.
He said every year the trust came under pressure from people who said it should give more of the money in grants, while others said more should go direct to consumers.
This dividend presented an opportunity for a "litmus test" to measure consumers' interest in a one-off different system of distribution.
He said the decision was not predetermined and his personal view was that the trustees should choose the option supported by the majority of people who gave feedback.
"We will honour their decision."
Cronin said his view was the money should be distributed through the 80/20 rule as usual.
It was a well-tested method and "strikes the right balance" between benefiting the community directly through money in their pockets and indirectly through grants.
He said it was good the trust was asking people for their opinions.
TECT manager Wayne Werder said people had to be Trustpower customers in Tauranga continuously between October 1 and March 31 to be eligible for the dividend.
He said one of the options was to put money into transformational grants to groups in four specific areas: Emergency services, the first 1000 days of life, safe and healthy homes and environmental sustainability.
He said one of the ideas behind the transformational grants was to offer charities, such as the Trustpower TECT rescue helicopter, the surety of donations over multiple years.
Alternately, money could be spread among several groups doing good work in a particular area where the need in Tauranga was significant, such as housing.
It was a unique opportunity to make a real difference in the community.
Trustpower TECT rescue helicopter fundraising manager Vanessa Richmond said the dividend had the potential to make an enormous difference.
She said the organisation had to find 50 per cent of its funding from the community.
Major grants offered long-term security as well as a reduction in administration costs associated with raising the money from lots of individuals.
An information pack was sent out to TECT consumers this week detailing the three potential options, and further information on these could be found on the TECT website.
TECT consumers who wished to provide feedback on the special distribution are invited to by 4pm, May 20.
• Option 1: $16.8m to eligible consumers ($295 each), $4.2m to top up current grant funds
• Option 2: $13.65m to eligible consumers ($240 each) $7.35m towards transformational grant initiatives
• Option 3: $0 to eligible consumers. $7.35m to towards transformational grant initiatives. $13.65m to top up current grant funds.