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Major investment . . . Alpine Energy's purpose-built headquarters in Washdyke. PHOTO: COURIER FILES

by Chris Tobin

Widespread calls for the Timaru District Council to extend the time for deliberating on a proposal to sell its shares in Alpine Energy have fallen on deaf ears.

A total of 540 public submissions on the proposal by council company Timaru District Holdings Ltd (TDHL) to sell its 47.5% shareholding in Alpine Energy were received by the time submissions closed on Monday, but they had not been broken down in terms of those opposed and those in favour, council communications manager Stephen Doran said.

“We don’t look at the detail of them until they are all loaded into the system.”

Asked if the council would extend the deadline for making a decision until after Christmas, Mr Doran said “we’re proceeding with the programme as per the original timetable”.

That included deciding not to release a report the council commissioned to value Alpine’s shares.

Public submissions opened on November 8 and closed at 5pm on Monday. The council will now meet on Tuesday to hear submissions and make a decision whether to proceed with selling the shares.

The timeframe has been viewed as being much too short and the detail on the possible future investment of funds from a sale as being insufficient.

In its submission, the South Canterbury Chamber of Commerce urged a three-month delay before the council voted on the issue.

Chamber chief executive Wendy Smith said it was disappointing the council was not prepared to extend the timeframe.

“We hope that when the submissions are heard next week that they might review the final decision – there could be additional information either for or against.

“We’ve asked for clarification on a number of points on how the funds [from a sale] would be used.

“This is a really significant proposal and it is one of the reasons why we’ve asked for more time.”

The chamber’s submission said the consultation period came “at a difficult time for businesses leading into the Christmas holiday period”.

“The tight timeframe also places unreasonable expectations on other shareholders who have pre-emptive rights making it difficult for them to be able to take appropriate action.”

Labour Party list MP Jo Luxton started a petition on Friday calling for an extension to the submission date.

“They don’t appear to be listening to the calls from a lot of people. Something like this is one of the last things people have on their minds at this time of year. It’s unfortunate they haven’t listened,” she said.

National MP for Rangitata Andrew Falloon criticised what he called a lack of clarity.

“The council’s promotion of the sale has focused heavily on how the dividend to TDHL of $4.7million is low for the level of investment,” he said.

“A key part of that equation is the $110million valuation. I’m a bit stunned we’re not able to see the report on how that price was reached.”