Don Elder gets $1.3m for sitting on his sofa

Former chief executive Dr Don Elder is earning a salary of $1.3 million per annum to sit at home and answer phone calls from Solid Energy managers explaining how the company went from an award-winning exporter to a basket case, Labour’s SOEs spokesperson Clayton Cosgrove says.

“Don Elder is being paid $1.3 million per annum for a ‘transitional role’, which seems to be little more than sitting at home and telling Solid Energy what went wrong over the phone.

“An SOE going belly up in this fashion is unprecedented in my lifetime. Why, when the taxpayers going to have to fork out $389 million, is the former chief executive being paid $1.3 million to sit at home.

“Dr Elder’s $1.3 million sofa-salary is the epitome of the culture of extravagance that helped bring Solid Energy to its knees.

“There were $23 million in bonuses paid over two years when the company was falling apart, a 50 per cent increase in travel spending and PR staff, the hiring of lobbyists, and now they’ve created a new position – the couch executive.

“Solid Energy’s collapse is the fault of the ministers. They knew what was going on and did nothing to stop it. They could have sacked the board at any time. They could have directed the company under section 13 of the SOE act. They could have made it clear that the huge spending was wrong when the company was going south.

“But ministers sat there and did nothing.

“New Zealanders deserve answers and they need them now. I am calling for a full Select Committee Inquiry and Don Elder and all those responsible must appear before it,” says Clayton Cosgrove.