Auckland councillors divided over financial asset sale

The council has agreed to sell the entirety of its diversified financial portfolio.
SIMON MAUDE/FAIRFAX NZ

The council has agreed to sell the entirety of its diversified financial portfolio.

Auckland Council has voted to sell its last remaining $130 million worth of bonds and shares despite concerns it is not in the city's best interest.

At a heated meeting on Tuesday councillors were split about whether investments in council's diversified share portfolio ought to be sold.

The proceeds would go towards repaying debt to enable additional investment in public transport and stormwater infrastructure.

Auckland mayor Phil Goff says council has to get on and do what it can to invest in infrastructure for more homes and ...
SAM HEWAT/FAIRFAX NZ

Auckland mayor Phil Goff says council has to get on and do what it can to invest in infrastructure for more homes and better transport.

A majority 14 councillors voted for divestment. However, five councillors voted against the sale, fearing it wasn't in the best interest of the city long term. 

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The council would not provide specific details of what investments would be sold. The portfolio does not include council's strategic assets such as Auckland International Airport and Ports of Auckland.

In May last year $100 million of investments was sold. Another $100 million was due to be sold before the 2018 financial year.

This left about $130 million in the portfolio which would be sold by the end of June 2018.

Councillor Cathy Casey said Aucklanders were already nervous about council selling off assets.

"This fund belongs to the people of Auckland. That's the point of the airport shares, that's the point of the port, it earns us money," Casey said. 

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"We should not be playing cash converters with public assets, strategic or otherwise.

"The feeling right now is if it isn't nailed down it's going to go to the highest bidder."

Councillor Mike Lee was also against the divestment.

"What I'm concerned about is that history will find us, this council, wilfully guilty of intergenerational theft."

Two commercial firms, Ernst and Young and Cameron Partners, advised council that the rationale to continue holding the portfolio was weak.

Mayor Phil Goff was for the sale and said there were no strong grounds for keeping the assets.

"Council has to get on and do what it can to invest in the infrastructure we need for more homes and better transport systems," Goff said. 

"I have no emotional attachment to shares and bonds whatsoever."

Councillor Christine Fletcher said the fund ought to be divested so public transport and wastewater could be improved. 

"They are the things the public have been clamouring for us to get on and do," Fletcher said.

 - Stuff

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