Newly re-elected Hawke's Bay Power Consumers' trustee Diana Kirton says her re-appointment to the trust, along with Helen Francis and Ken Gilligan, is an "overwhelming endorsement" of the trio's "Your cheque-Your choice" campaign to get elected.

This year's dividend of $200 went to almost 60,000 electricity account holders, but the triennial trustee election included five candidates who sought more openness and transparency about how the trust should operate, including consultation on a wide range of issues including how the dividends could be spent.

Of those five, recently retired Unison chairman and current Hawke's Bay DHB chairman Kevin Atkinson and former Napier mayor and current DHB member Barbara Arnott were elected to the trust.

The other three, however, former Napier MP and cabinet minister Chris Tremain, paediatrician and former children's commissioner Russell Wills, and DHB member and former pharmacist Peter Dunkerley were unsuccessful in their bid.


Mrs Kirton, who received the highest number of votes at 12,047, ahead of the next highest polling candidate Helen Francis with 9490, said yesterday that she was very pleased with the result.

"It was a strong message from the public and the messages I have been receiving by phone and Facebook have been overwhelming.

"The reality is the dividend belongs to consumers - that's what the deed says, it's a consumer trust not a charitable or community trust."

Mr Atkinson said he was pleased to have made the cut and to be able to stay involved with Unison, and said there were many reasons for his decision to stand, not least a desire for there to be more openness and transparency in the way the trust conducted its business.

"The company is going to develop in different directions in the years ahead compared to when it was formed 20 years ago and maybe there needs to be a review of the trust deed."

He said there had never been any intention to stop paying the dividend, rather a desire for better communication between the trustees and consumers, and a desire to use the opportunity of Unison's recent ownership reviews to divest the trust's funds in a way that was relevant to today's world.

He said that with the election now complete, he would be fully prepared to pursue any changes in his usual professional way.

"I hope the others who have been elected approach the next three years in good faith."

Mrs Kirton said she was confident the trustees could work together despite their divergent campaign stances.

"We work around the health board table together very respectfully and collaboratively - we do not agree on everything but we have ways to work around that and everyone has a right to voice their opinion."

During the campaign there were also questions around whether trustees were being paid too much, the remuneration currently set at $22,000 per person plus compensation for about 15 meetings a year.

Mrs Kirton said the trustee payment was not a secret and was also not out of line with payments received by those in comparable positions.

"We've always benchmarked those payments against other trusts - compared with other trusts and based on the number of consumers we are the second lowest paid trustees in New Zealand. We do not have a cup of tea and pick up the cheque."

Mr Atkinson, however, maintained that in his view the trustee fees were excessive, based on his 30 years governance experience in not-for-profit organisations, and given the low level of community activity engaged in by the trust.

Debate over the allocation of the annual dividend sparked a higher level of interest in the trustee election than seen in previous years, with a final voter turnout of 30.8 per cent of eligible voters compared to a turnout of 23.8 per cent in 2014.

Mrs Kirton received the highest number of votes, 12,047, followed by Mrs Francis, 9490, Mr Atkinson, 9044, Mr Gilligan, 8646, and Mrs Arnott, 7362.

Votes received for the other candidates were:

John Geoghegan - 5940
Garth Cowie - 5826
Peter Dunkerley - 5681
Russell Wills - 5648
Chris Tremain - 5605
Liz Remmerswaal - 2407
Giles Pearson - 1968
Bill Reilly - 1582