By Pattrick Smellie
A quiet clean-out of the Solid Energy board has begun, with two resignations by directors filed with the Companies Office this week and the appointment of an experienced Australian mining expert, Neville Sneddon, to the board.
Deputy chairman John Fletcher, who has served on the Solid Energy board since May 2007, has resigned with six months still to run on his directorship, which was scheduled to expire next April, while Michelle Smith has left a year early after serving on the Solid Energy board since November 2010.
The resignations and appointments have yet to be announced publicly by State-Owned Enterprises Minister Tony Ryall.
The moves follow the scheduled departure of Solid Energy's long-serving chairman John Palmer earlier this year, coinciding with a massive restructuring as the state-owned coal miner. Auckland's Watercare Services chief executive, Mark Ford, who led the government's Auckland super-city merger, was appointed to replace Mr Palmer.
The company reported a $40.2 million loss after writedowns in the year to June 30, with chief executive Don Elder describing the deterioration in global coking coal prices as an extreme and sudden downturn which caught the company by surprise.
Solid Energy was to have been one of the four state-owned energy companies to be partially privatised, but has now been taken off the "for sale" list pending a commercial turnaround.
Mr Ryall said a number of directors' terms were coming to an end in the next few months.
Other Solid Energy directors have served for longer than Mr Fletcher and Ms Smith, but sources say their early resignations indicate dissatisfaction with the company's expansion into areas that did not produce significant new earnings.
Mr Sneddon is non-executive chairman of Sydney-based CSM Energy.