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Central Lakes Trust significant community asset

Cath Gilmore

Central Lakes Trust (CLT) is a significant community asset says retiring trustee Cath Gilmour:

“Nine years as a Central Lakes Trust trustee has given me the privilege of seeing the huge contribution so many volunteers make to our Queenstown Lakes and Central Otago districts.

CLT has grown from the original $155 million vested in it on the disestablishment of the Otago Central Electric Power Trust to a well-diversified fund of $467 million, including 100% ownership of Pioneer Energy.

During the 22 years of CLT’s existence, we have contributed more than $128 million in grants to charitable groups and projects within our district.

A huge thanks to those visionaries who ensured it didn’t just end up being some $1000 in then-residents’ back pockets, instead of the huge asset in perpetuity it has become for everyone in our region.

Growing this asset is a huge part of trustees’ responsibility. We have an investment committee and expert fund managers to help on this front but must remain agile in both our investment and granting strategies to ensure we get the balance right between long-term investment and the needs of our community.

This has meant we have been able to continue to grow our annual grants budget despite the unsettled investment climate recently.

We have so many individuals and groups who create the cohesive glue that nurtures our disparate communities. And CLT is able to help many - from those who provide goldfish bowls in our elderly folks’ homes and youth workers for our region’s youth trusts, to funding for environmental programmes, heritage projects, community halls, museums...the list goes on.

But CLT is also proactive with projects it sees a need for and initiates. Like defibrillators around the district, recreational asset planning to maximise benefits across both district councils, Covid response grants and funding support for the much-needed Emergency Response Groups throughout our communities.

The incredible recreational resource being created by the Central Otago Queenstown Trail Network Trust is perhaps the project I’m most proud of as a trustee. Building on the drive and vision of a small group who came to us with an idea, CLT helped garner some $26 million in funding from government, Otago Community Trust and ourselves to plan, build and maintain 170km of trails to link and create a 550km network of trails.

Although it is already proving its worth as an economic resource, our primary drivers were the accessibility, fitness, recreational and mental health benefits for our community.

The decisions on how much money to give what groups for which projects are informed by clearly defined guidelines set by trustees to ensure fairness and efficacy. Having trustees with extensive grassroots experience and networks in their community helps make sure these decisions are well-informed.

We get great advice from our grants team, who work with the different groups to ensure their applications meet the requirements set by the board and our mission to enhance assets and enrich lives in our community.

As a governance board, more of our discussion is about strategies to create the long-term, objective, fair and productive frameworks on which such decisions are based. Integrity is vital for public trust, so any conflicts of interest must be clearly identified and well-managed and fairness is fundamental to our decision-making.

We as a district are incredibly lucky to have CLT in our midst, the largest philanthropic trust per head in the Southern Hemisphere. Two elected trustees are standing down this year and 12 candidates have put their name forward for the five positions available.

We also have three appointed trustees, selected to fill any gaps we might have in governance skills and to ensure continuity through election cycles. Each trustee can serve a maximum of nine years.

I wish the new board all the best as they continue to maximise this amazing taonga – this treasure – our district has in CLT. Thank you for the opportunity to have been part of this for the past nine years.”

Every three years, the community vote on elected trustees to represent them and serve on the Board of the Trust. The last recommended day for postal voting is Tuesday 15 November. Online voting closes midday on Friday 18 November.


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