Trust resolves dispute over trustee process

MARTY SHARPE
Last updated 05:00 07/01/2014

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Hawke's Bay

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A spat within the Hawke's Bay rescue helicopter trust has been resolved, with the helicopter operator, Skyline Aviation, losing its right to appoint a trustee after concerns of conflicts of interest were raised.

The trust, which funds the Lowe Corporation rescue helicopter, held a heated annual general meeting in July at which the chairwoman, Alison McEwan, resigned, citing concerns over transparency in the board selection process and payments made to Skyline Aviation.

Ms McEwan and others involved in the trust favoured the findings of an independent review which recommended that trustees should be appointed on the basis of skills, not by election.

Under the original trust deed there were seven trustees, with one appointed each by (principal sponsor) Lowe Corporation, the Hawke's Bay District Health Board and Skyline Aviation.

The trust's founding members were then able to elect four other trustees.

The review said Skyline should not be entitled to appoint a trustee as the company had a "direct conflict" as it received trust funding.

Skyline Aviation managing director Mike Toogood was upset with plans to change the trust's structure and sent members an email stating the proposal would mean members were not "able to vote in any way for trustees' appointments or indeed be involved in the affairs of the trust in any meaningful way".

Following Ms McEwan's resignation, a new chairman, Andy Train, was appointed.

A new deed, signed by all trustees last month, will be registered with the Companies Office and Charities Commission next month.

Under the deed there will be six trustees appointed by a panel consisting of five people: the DHB chair (or nominee), the Order of St John district operations manager (or nominee), someone appointed by the mayors of Hawke's Bay, someone appointed by the principal sponsor, and "a members' representative".

The members' representative will be elected by members.

Ms McEwan had also questioned why the trust should pay full lease for a Skyline helicopter that was out of use after an accident during takeoff from Wellington Hospital in April.

Mr Train yesterday said: "That's all been settled and everyone's as happy as hell".

"Being fair, Skyline has all the information and you're talking to trustees whose whole lives do not revolve around choppers. "It's like getting your house painted. You're never sure if you're getting a good price, are you?" Mr Train said.

Mr Toogood said he was thrilled with the new deed and "the feedback I've had from the members has been very positive".

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He said Skyline had "no issue" with no longer having an appointee to the trust.

The current trustees will remain in place until at least April.

- The Dominion Post

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