Council refuses to release key report on Alpine shares
company about the proposal to sell shares in Alpine Energy.
The council yesterday responded verbally that it would not release a report which it commissioned to value the shares before putting out its sale proposal to the public. Despite repeated requests to the council from 9am yesterday, the council did not issue a statement confirming the refusal until 4.30pm.
The council cited grounds of commercial sensitivity, namely it is ‘‘likely to unreasonably prejudice the commercial position of the person who supplied the information’’.
‘‘In deciding to do this [not release] we have carefully assessed the considerations for withholding the information, in this case, are not outweighed by the public interest in making the information available’’.
Rangitata MP Andrew Falloon described the refusal as ‘‘staggering".
‘‘The council’s promotion of the sale has been all about how the dividend to TDHL of $4.7m is low for the level of investment,’’ Falloon said.
‘‘A key part of that equation is the $110m valuation. I’m a bit stunned TDHL won’t release any of the work on how that price was reached.’’
Falloon had already made a submission on the proposal, which highlighted the complete lack of clarity on what investments might be made with the proceeds.
‘‘The council are asking ratepayers to blindly agree to the sale of Alpine Energy shares which provides solid and growing returns, in favour of unknown investments we don’t know will return greater dividends,’’ Falloon said.
Grey Power Timaru executive member Jock Anderson said commercial sensitivity was a ‘‘feeble excuse for non-disclosure’’.
‘‘This is a major community issue, and as such, the council has a moral and social responsibility to release the documents.
‘‘The council must lay all its cards on the table. Only that way can we find out whether or not they’re playing with a stacked deck.’’
Anderson said the whole process had been shrouded in secrecy.
‘‘In the absence of any report, you could just as well say that the figures were plucked out of the sky. That is no way to run a business, and certainly no way to run a public body,’’ he said.
Federated Farmers South Canterbury president Jason Grant said it ‘‘seemed a little bit strange’’ that the council has decided not to release the report.
‘‘There could be commercially sensitive information in it, but if it’s a straight valuation then it’s hard to see the harm releasing it,’’ Grant said.
Labour List MP Jo Luxton, who had previously called on the council to extend the submission deadline so people could obtain more information, said yesterday the lack of information was a big part of the issue for the community.
‘‘They aren’t telling the community exactly what they intend to spend the money from sales on. Now we see they aren’t releasing this report,’’ Luxton said.
‘‘I understand that sometimes some information can be sensitive but there must be parts of it that can be released. There is too much ‘unknown’ and the council, who was elected by the community, need to be open and transparent about their agenda here.
‘‘If the council’s plans are so strong and clearly beneficial, then they’d have no problem outlining that to their community. If the council can’t make a strong business case here, and they clearly haven’t so far, then I certainly won’t be supporting their proposed sell off,’’ Luxton said.
People have until 5pm on Monday to make a submission, with council hearings scheduled for December 18. The council is expected to make its decision the following day.