Whanganui District Council's holding company, which manages its commercial assets, has restructured.
Each of the council's two businesses now has an independent board and the $33.9 million council-controlled organisation Whanganui District Council Holdings has two new directors.
Holdings' job is to oversee the council's commercial assets - GasNet and the New Zealand International Commercial Pilot Academy (NZICPA) - and advise on new investments. It is chaired by Annette Main, a former Whanganui mayor and Horizons regional councillor.
Until September this year the two boards of the businesses were made up of the five members of Holdings - Main, deputy chairman Matt Doyle who is the principal of a Whanganui accounting business, lawyer Simon Karipa, energy sector expert Peter Hazledine and governance and investment expert David Rae.
But with the acquisition of the NZICPA, Holdings started accumulating more assets.
They are now worth $33.9 million, Whanganui District Council chief executive Kym Fell said. Holdings is expected to return 6 per cent a year ($470,000) on the paid up shares ($7,845,700) to council.
Holdings now owns the flight school's buildings and planes, and accommodation for its students at the former Nazareth Rest Home and former Collegiate Motor Inn, and it is the co-owner of the former St George's Preparatory School.
"It had grown so much and was building up quite a huge asset base, with more potentially to come," Main said.
Because of that growth, and because both Main and Doyle want to leave Holdings, the board asked Whanganui District Council to undertake a review of best practice for a board with its responsibilities.
The review was done by Lodestone Consulting and Morrison Solutions, as a joint venture.
One of the key recommendations was that the two commercial entities should have boards that are separate and independent from Holdings.
Accordingly, Hazledine and Rae resigned from Holdings. Hazledine now chairs the GasNet board with directors Doyle and Rae, and Rae now chairs the NZICPA board, with directors Doyle, Hazledine and Whanganui district councillor Charlie Anderson.
Holdings is still chaired by Main, and Karipa stays on as a director. He is the chairman of Whanganui Iwi Fisheries and the chairman of Ngā Tāngata Tiaki o Whanganui Trust's investment arm, Te Ngakinga o Whanganui Investment Trust.
The council has appointed two directors to replace Hazledine and Rae on the Holdings board.
One is Carolyn van Leuven, a former commercial law firm partner and deputy chief executive of large government agencies. She is of Te Atiawa o te Waka-o-Maui descent, and a graduate of Whanganui Girls' College.
The other is Declan Millin, who is now deputy chairman and poised to take on the role of chairman when Main leaves. He is an accountant, with whakapapa links to Whanganui and Taranaki iwi. He has advised on a variety of commercial operations overseas and advised the New Zealand government on housing projects.
Holdings will continue to oversee capital spending for both GasNet and the NZICPA.
"We receive their recommendations and discuss them pretty fully," Main said.
It's important to have the right advice on investments that are publicly-owned and focused on economic development, Fell said.
"The time was right to review the necessary skill sets and the model of high-level oversight required to govern during a period of expansion. Post-Covid there are still opportunities and I see the new directors offering considerable value."
The council needed to seek out the best people for the jobs, and Fell said that could mean looking outside Whanganui.
"Our new directors all have local connections but, critically, they all have significant experience in government investment portfolios."
Main said 2020 has been a busy year "trying to protect our assets from the ongoing effect of Covid-19".
She intends to step down in March next year.
"I have spent years on the board, when I was mayor and I carried on after that. I think that's long enough. It's a different world."