New Plymouth Mayor Andrew Judd has dropped the biggest hint yet that the district council will sell off its multimillion-dollar Tasmanian farms.
Judd and councillor Richard Handley will visit the investment next month and the mayor says he will be using the overseas trip to find out how close the council is to selling off the controversial farms.
"It's no secret that Timl's balanced portfolio is out of kilter," he said.
"I will be seeing just how close we are to divesting our interests."
Owned through the council's Perpetual Investment Fund (Pif) and administered by Taranaki Investment Management (Timl), the Tasmanian properties have a book value of $152 million at balance last year. With council's entire Pif valued at $203.41m at the end of last year, Judd said there were too many eggs in one basket.
The Pif was set up in 2004 after the council sold its 45 per cent share of Powerco to Australia's Prime Infrastructure for $259m.
When Judd was elected mayor in October last year he was invited by Timl and Tasman Farms to visit the investment.
But before he would accept the offer he asked for an itinerary and to have the expectations and outcomes of the visit made clear.
"There is no point in going to look at farms for the sake of looking at farms," he said.
"I could look out the window and do that."
Handley had also been selected for the trip as he is the chairman of the finance committee which monitors the council's investments. Although he was interested in seeing the council sell off the asset, the farms were still the council's single most significant investment at present, Judd said.
"It is important for me as mayor to have first-hand knowledge of the business and to also reinforce council-to-government links between New Zealand and Australia."
The four day trip would be funded from a Timl budget, he said. "It is prudent for Councillor Handley and me to get a personal understanding of the business in terms of its scale and size."
Timl chief executive Mike Trousselot said each council had sent over representatives, so they could understand the scale of the investment.
"It helps them to gain understanding of the asset, as it's difficult to understand the size of the investment unless you can see it."
He said Judd and Handley would be kept busy during the four day trip and will also be given a tour of the farms in buggies.
"You've got to have a strong back."
Timl released their statement of intent for 2014-2015 this week, showing their budget for the year ahead would be $1.417m.
The statement also set out a new objective for Timl - to improve its communication with the council and the councillors.
Judd said councillors had requested better and effective communication from Timl to ensure there was transparency and accountability.
Trousselot welcomed the new objective.
"There has been quite a big change in the council composition and we think it is important to provide everyone with the right, up to date information," he said.
TIML BUDGET 2014-15
Fulltime staff $620,000 Director fees and expenses $350,000 NPDC shared support services $90,000 General operating expenses $160,000 Custodial and reporting costs $100,000 Professional advice $65,000 Director recruitment $20,000 Audit fees $12,000
- Taranaki Daily News