‘Parochial’ director leaves power board

Southland farmer Jim Hargest is retiring from the Southland Power Board after 16 years as a director.

RAKAHOUKA man Jim Hargest is an archetypal Southland farmer.

He begins the conversation by saying, ” I didn’t ask for this to happen”.

But regardless, he is someone who should be acknowledged because, for the past 16 years, he has given his time as a trustee on the Southland Electric Power Supply Consumer Trust (SEPSCT) — eight of those years as chairman.

The SEPSCT is a governing body which was created in 1998 when the Government returned the ownership of the local electricity network to the people of Southland.

The trust holds all the shares, in The Power Company Limited, on behalf of consumers connected to the company’s network, distributing those benefits on to consumers.

“Everybody who pays a line charge or power bill is a part owner of all the wires and
transformers,” Mr Hargest said.

Last year the trust gave the 36,000 eligible consumers on average an $190 discount which was passed on through their power bills, he said.

“What we try to deliver is an increase in discounts each year.”

SEPSCT trustees are responsible for appointing directors of PCL while also negotiating strategic direction and performance objectives with the directors on behalf of consumers.

“We monitor the performance of the company’s electricity supply.

“Because we’re a trust, we want to maintain and increase the value of the assets of the trust.”

The assets now amount to more than $700 million made up of investments in the electricity sector including hydro power and wind farms.

Mr Hargest was voted on as a trustee in 2005, when he believed it was an opportune time to offer his experience as a rural farmer as well as get involved in governance.

He has enjoyed the past 16 years, saying he had worked alongside some incredibly talented people.

“We’ve been so lucky with the board of directors, we’ve been very well served by them.

“We’re all pretty parochial Southlanders.”

When asked what he is most proud of throughout his tenure, he quickly replies the establishment of the Southland Warm Homes Trust which was set up in conjunction with the the Invercargill council-owned EIL, Community Trust of Southland and ILT.

This scheme had seen 8000 homes benefit with retrospective insulation, he said.

He is also proud of the growth of PCL including the new PowerNet building – the company which is 50% owned by PCL and EIL.

As he steps away from the trust, he is hoping to spend more time with his five grandchildren who are all in the North Island and continue to keep fit with his outdoor pursuits, having recently completed the 254km Westpac Chopper Ride from Queenstown to Invercargill.

He will also continue to work on his third-generation sheep farm which was bought by his well-known grandfather James Hargest (who the college is named after) in July, 1920.

“I said I was going to retire (from the farm) at 60 but that was nine years ago.

“I still enjoy it every day so I’ll keep going for a bit longer yet.”