Auckland Energy Consumer Trust sacks exec

THE Auckland Energy Consumer Trust has fired its executive secretary, Gary Sturgess, though AECT chairman Warren Kyd says this will not affect its plans to partially privatise energy network company Vector.

The AECT has admitted dismissing Sturgess but said a court suppression order prevents it from commenting further. Sturgess – a former Taranaki Electricity Board general manager – has described his departure as “a legal matter” that he cannot discuss.

Yesteray's Sunday Star-Times newspaper quotes Sturgess as talking of a "breakdown of enormous proportions" between the AECT, which own Vector and represents Auckland customers and owns Vector, and the energy network company that is making a full takeover bid for NGC Holdings.

The paper also talked of a "recent" proposal from Australia's Babcock & Brown Infrastructure – which as Prime Infrastructure last year bought second largest network company Powerco - that could have meant Vector not proceeding with its current NZ$593 million IPO.

NGC and Powerco were last year in merger discussions before the New Plymouth District Council, Taranaki Electricity Trust and Powerco Wanganui Trust announced they were selling their majority Powerco stakes to Prime.

The publicly-elected AECT has a history of infighting, particularly over privatisation matters. But Kyd said none of the five trustees was involved in the Sturgess matter and denied a breakdown in the AECT-Vector relationship.

He said the trust would consider applying to have a court suppression order, applied for by Sturgess, lifted. Once details were available “the facts will speak for themselves”.

Last week Vector announced a full takeover for the 32.8% of NGC it does not already own, saying it would pay NZ$3.40 for each share – NZ$0.78 in cash and the rest in new shares that will have an issue price of NZ$2.62.

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