28 Mar 2013

Don Elder to continue on Solid Energy payroll

9:00 am on 28 March 2013

Former chief executive Don Elder will stay on the payroll of troubled state-owned company Solid Energy until August at a cost of more than $250,000.

The coal mining firm has $390 million of debt and is in crisis talks about a possible bailout.

Dr Elder quit in February, shortly before the Government revealed the company's serious difficulties.

Since then he has stayed on his annual salary of $1.3 million working from home in an advisory role, which ends next week.

But Radio New Zealand News has learned he will receive $253,000 for the remaining four months of his notice period, starting next week.

The Green Party says its unbelievable that a company in such strife has seen fit to pay Dr Elder such a lavish sum.

The Labour Party is dismayed by the payment, and says retaining Dr Elder until August is akin to him being paid for doing nothing.

The party's state owned enterprises spokesman, Clayton Cosgrove, has suggested the payment could just be a golden handshake in disguise.

Solid Energy strategy and corporate affairs manager Bill Luff said Dr Elder has confirmed he would continue to assist the company during the notice period, and beyond, if requested and able to.

Les Neilson used to work as a carpenter at the company's mothballed Spring Creek mine and says Dr Elder doesn't deserve a penny.

He told Morning Report Dr Elder visited the West Coast a month before it was announced the mine would close and told workers things were going well.

Mr Neilson said some people took out mortgages on the basis of that reassurance and now face mortgagee sales.