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Asset petition to proceed

EMMA WHITTAKER
Last updated 08:48 02/05/2012

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A petition to force a referendum on the partial sale of state owned assets is going ahead.

The referendum has been called for by a coalition of interest groups including Grey Power and the Labour Party that are opposed to the government's plans to sell up to 49 per cent of Mighty River Power, Genesis and Meridian Energy, and further reduce its shareholding in Air New Zealand.

Prime Minister John Key has said the asset sales will allow the government to cut its debt by billions and borrow about $10 billion less each year.

The petition has been given the green light after Mt Roskill MP Phil Goff and other opponents managed to collect 1000 signatures on a preliminary petition launched in February (Central Leader, February 12). Those who signed the earlier petition will need to resign the new document.

Mr Goff says there is opposition to asset sales in his electorate.

He believes about 75 per cent of his constituents are against the sales.

"There is a very strong feeling out there that New Zealanders don't believe assets should be sold and they don't think the government should be able to take a step that is irreversible without having a mandate to do it.

"We think the petition will show they don't have a mandate."

Last week Parliament's finance and expenditure select committee began hearing some of the almost 600 submissions it received on legislation it would need to bring in to allow the controversial mixed-ownership model of the assets.

Mr Goff says many of these submissions reflect the opposition he is seeing in his electorate.

He says one of the biggest concerns many of his constituents have is that many of the shares will be sold to overseas buyers and the profit generated by the companies will leave New Zealand.For a referendum to go ahead 300,000 signatures will need to be collected on the petition.

The possible citizen's initiated referendum would be non-binding, but Mr Goff says it would be a "display of arrogance" for the Government to ignore the result.

Those wanting to sign the petition can get a copy of the form from Mr Goff's electorate office at 503A Mt Albert Rd.

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