NPDC chooses safe hands for Waitara community fund

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A multi-million-dollar fund to help boost Waitara’s prosperity for generations will be put in the care of the same firm that’s managed the success of NPDC’s Perpetual Investment Fund (PIF) nest-egg.

The Waitara Perpetual Community Fund (WPCF) was set up to invest cash from Waitara Lands Act property sales for the long-term good of the town and NPDC councillors recently voted to appoint investment specialists Mercer to look after the Fund. 

NPDC Chief Financial Officer Joy Buckingham says Mercer has a strong track record in managing the PIF since 2016 and the appointment brings peace of mind to the Waitara community that the Fund will be invested safely and wisely.

“The Community Fund is going be transformative for Waitara. It’s going to lay the foundations for the next chapter in the town’s history with community projects and investment to help the town prosper and develop. Mercer is the right choice to manage this Fund for the benefit of all Waitara people,” says Ms Buckingham.  

The WPCF has already banked about $9 million from about 250 completed Waitara land sales and will make an annual release for community projects once it is securely invested.

Meanwhile, councillors have appointed two new directors to the board of the NPDC Council Controlled Organisation New Plymouth PIF Guardians. The board provides governance oversight of the investment management of NPDC’s PIF.  The new directors will provide a complementary mix of skills and experience to the existing board that will ensure the ongoing success of the $301.2m fund. 

“Sound management of the PIF supported our strong financial position when we drew up our $20m Back On Our Feet package to support local jobs and businesses after the Covid lockdown, and it’s helped offset rates to the tune of almost $9m in the last financial year,” says Ms Buckingham.

The new Guardians are:

  • Michelle Tsui, who was appointed on 1 November 2020 and is a member of the Foundation North Board of Trustees, and chair of the Investment Committee, overseeing a portfolio of NZ$1.4 billion. 
  • Graham Ansell has been appointed from 30 June 2021.  He is an independent member of the Bank of New Zealand’s Investment Review Committee and an independent director of BNZ Investment Services Limited.

International ratings agency Standard and Poor’s in September confirmed NPDC’s rating of AA/A-1+, the highest possible rating for local government in New Zealand, saying it was underpinned by the PIF. NPDC manages assets worth about $3.3 billion over 16 different business areas, with annual operating budgets of about $175 million.

Waitara Lands Act: Fast facts

  • Parliament passed the Act on 18 December 2018, enabling leaseholders to buy the land on about 770 properties.  
  • NPDC has received more than 720 applications to buy since it took effect in March 2019 and the first sale and purchase agreement was signed in August last year.
  • The Act could unlock up to $90 million to be invested back into the town. The proceeds from the sales are divided into three funds: 
  • A Hapū Land Fund to help the Manukōrihi and Ōtaraua hapū buy land.
  • The Waitara Perpetual Community Fund to help support community projects in Waitara. 
  • A fund to support the Waitara River and other environmental projects.