ECNZ wind-up process 'an embarrassment'

Last updated 05:00 01/02/2013

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Labour MPs have called the ongoing wind-up of the old Electricity Corporation an "embarrassment", particularly as directors are still getting paid.

ECNZ chairman Victor Wu presented his annual report to Parliament's commerce select committee yesterday but was quickly grilled by Labour for its lack of progress.

After being told that it was costing $100,000 a year to keep ECNZ running, and that $72,000 of it was in directors' fees, David Cunliffe said the taxpayer deserved some accountability.

"Fourteen years seems like a bloody long time to be going through that process and you're telling me you're not even sure it's going to be wound up this year. What exactly is the problem?"

ECNZ was formed in 1987 to corporatise and deregulate the Government's electricity department. It controlled the entire electricity market, including the national grid, which became Transpower in 1994.

Some assets were split off to form the now-listed Contact Energy in 1996, and in 1999, ECNZ was split into three state-owned enterprises: Mighty River Power, Meridian and Genesis.

That left a down-sized ECNZ to settle residual matters, including the transfer of property titles it held to the SOEs.

Over the years the number of title transfers had been whittled down from about 100 to just a handful, and it was hoped that the process would be completed by the end of the year.

But problems had arisen because the Crown had to transfer the titles to ECNZ before they could be passed on to the three SOEs.

Wu said he could not provide the MPs with a final wind-up deadline.

After the meeting, Meares said the ECNZ board had considered whether to stay with the process but its legal advice was that matters were so complex, it would be ''counter-productive if we were removed from the equation''.

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