The controversial proposal by trustees to transform TECT into an entirely charitable trust by 2023 will not go ahead.
Trustees have announced they will not be progressing with the proposal, or putting it to a consumer vote, after engaging in a ‘robust consultation process'.
“We maintained throughout this process that the wishes of consumers would remain at the heart of our decision-making, and the consumers have clearly spoken,” says TECT chair Bill Holland.
“The trustees acknowledge the efforts of the entire TECT community for their thoughtful engagement in this process.”
The proposal, which was put out as a starting point for discussion, suggested the creation of a transformational fund for the Western Bay development and associated causes, after a $2500 lump sum pay out to consumers, followed by five years' worth of $360 TECT cheques.
Although one-third of written submitters supported the proposal, the majority were opposed, with many providing suggestions about other alternatives.
The trustees are unanimous in withdrawing the proposal rather than taking it to a referendum.
“The discussions at the four information sessions, as well as the feedback from the 21,000 written submissions and four days of oral hearings from approximately 130 individuals, showed there to be immense passion within the community for the trust,” says Bill.
He says now the trustees instead intend to work through the feedback and suggestions and will ‘fully analyse' the content of submissions to ensure all good ideas are captured to benefit the long-term future of the trust.
“This feedback will provide valuable information that will inform TECT's future planning. We also intend to communicate our findings with consumers once we have had time to work through the large amount of feedback.
He says the debate became a philosophical one between those who wanted to keep the status quo, where individuals receive a cheque, and those who wanted to take the compensation offered and see the trust evolve into one that could help Tauranga and Western Bay of Plenty communities for generations to come.
“There were a lot of complex questions because this was a complex matter. This was never going to be an easy discussion but we felt it was a discussion the public deserved to have.”
TECT trustees will now release a 2018 distribution plan for consumer comment in the coming weeks, which will outline the proposed amount of the TECT cheque distribution for November 2018 and the funds available for community organisations.
“Consumers should anticipate a distribution plan that looks very similar to that from 2017,” says Bill.
Trustpower, which lobbied heavily against the proposal, has welcomed the decision.
Chief executive Vince Hawksworth says the trustees must be congratulated for listening to the beneficiaries, who came out in record numbers to make their voices heard.
“More than 21,000 wrote submissions, over 100 fronted up in person to speak to the proposal and hundreds more were at the many public meetings telling the trustees they wanted to keep the cheque,” he says.
Vince, who made his own verbal submission against the proposal, says now is the time to reflect and consider what has come from beneficiaries, prompted by TECT's consultation.
“We all want our community to be successful and we need to have a conversation about what success looks like for the long term.
“Trustpower wishes to acknowledge all those who participated in this consultation process, which has demonstrated the passion of the Western Bay community.
“We look forward to building a stronger relationship with TECT.”
A PASSIONATE RESPONSE FROM THE COMMUNITY
From the moment SunLive reported on the TECT proposal on January 25, the local community was divided between those who supported the winding up of the trust, and those who either wished to see the status quo remain, or a third option entertained.
Speaking to SunLive after the announcement, Bill Holland revealed he and his fellow trustees had been discussing the proposal for over a year, and that the idea was initially raised by him to transform the trust into a solely charitable venture.
In the nearly two months between the announcement of the proposal, and it's withdrawal today by trustees, The Weekend Sun received several letters on the issue, mostly from those against the proposal – although not all were.
Two ‘grassroots' movements also emerged advocating for and against the proposal – TECTyes, made up of residents involved in sports clubs and local charities, and ‘Protect the Cheque', a Facebook page with more than 4000 likes.
TECT put out forms both in print and online for consumers to make submissions on the proposal in February, eventually receiving more than 20,000 responses, including 12,000 through Trustpower. But there was criticism of the way the submission forms were worded, with some consumers finding the phrasing confusing. The use of the phrase ‘I support the proposal in its current form' led some submitters to accidentally tick that box, when they thought they were supporting the TECT cheque in its current form.
Information sessions were held by TECT throughout the submission period, with Trustpower holding their own sessions after being refused representation at TECT's sessions.
The two organisations engaged in debate across media channels instead, with both accusing the other of causing ‘confusion and concern' among consumers.
After submissions closed in early March, TECT trustees hosted four days of verbal submissions at Village Cinema in the Historic Village, where around 130 consumers spoke to their submissions, including several Trustpower employees, former councillors, and other prominent members of the community.
The fact the majority of submitters, both on paper and those who spoke, were against the proposal was what prompted trustees to withdraw their suggestion, before it could be put to a referendum.
Consumers will next get to vote on TECT matters in July, when three trustee positions become vacant.