Sparks fly over boss' pay

CATHIE BELL
Last updated 07:41 11/09/2012

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Another $50 on average will be distributed to electricity customers in Marlborough before Christmas, Marlborough Electric Power Trust chairman Tim Smit said yesterday.

The trust's annual meeting, held in Blenheim yesterday, was an at-times tetchy affair, with former mayor Tom Harrison and Marlborough Lines chairman David Dew calling each other's actions "immoral".

Mr Smit refused to accept questions by Mr Harrison about the level of salary Marlborough Lines managing director Ken Forrest was paid.

He also knocked back a proposal by electrical contractor Jack Reddan to appoint a liaison person between the trust and the board of Marlborough Lines to mediate in disputes several contracting firms were having with the lines company, saying the trust couldn't do that.

Mr Harrison said the investment in other lines companies hadn't delivered benefits for Marlborough customers, saying his discount hadn't increased in the past 10 years.

Mr Dew and Mr Forrest disputed that: statistics in the company's annual report showed the amount distributed had increased from $4.46 million in 2008 to $6.58m this financial year. Mr Forrest said the average Marlborough customer, using about 8000kW of power, would have got $223 back from the company through the trust discount.

"I put it that there are very few other areas in New Zealand where the customer would get that from a network company."

Mr Harrison tried to ask trustees their personal opinion about Mr Forrest's 18 per cent pay increase while "ordinary workers" at the company got 2 per cent, but Mr Smit said the meeting was not the right place to ask such a question.

"As a trust, we have certain duties and powers as trustees. These specifically exclude any management of the company. The managing director's salary is done by the board, not the trust."

Mr Dew told Mr Harrison it was "immoral" of him to raise issues like that, and Mr Harrison said he found pay increases of that level immoral and a salary of almost $500,000 was "obscene".

Trustee Leo McKendry - also a former mayor - said his personal view was that Mr Harrison should examine the salaries paid to similar company heads across New Zealand.

Mr Dew said lines company staff at all levels were sought-after employees, by companies both in New Zealand and overseas.

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- The Marlborough Express

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