The Government has been accused of treachery during emotive pleas for it to dump its plans to partially sell state-owned assets.
Parliament's finance and expenditure select committee yesterday began hearing some of the almost 600 submissions it received on legislation to enact the Government's controversial mixed- ownership model.
The Government plans to sell up to 49 per cent of Mighty River Power, Genesis and Meridian, and further reduce its shareholding in Air New Zealand, although it does not need to pass new laws to sell shares in the airline.
People Power Ohariu was formed after last year's election to convince UnitedFuture leader and MP for Ohariu Peter Dunne to vote against the bill.
Mr Dunne has the deciding vote. If he and ACT leader John Banks support it, the Government has the numbers to pass legislation by 61 votes to 60.
Her voice breaking and close to tears, People Power Ohariu spokeswoman Ariana Paretutanganui-Tamati told the committee the sales were "nothing less than treachery".
"It is absolutely ludicrous that in our country a group of 61 people can make decisions that have serious, serious, implications for our country and our children's future and our land."
The group was concerned about the impact on power prices, with already a quarter of New Zealand children living in poverty and elderly people dying of health complications in cold homes they could not afford to heat, she said.
Her concerns were echoed by Grey Power.
Spokeswoman Molly Melhuish said an Economic Development Ministry comparison showed that consumers with state-owned energy companies paid on average 3.31 cents less per kilowatt for their power than those with private companies. That meant consumers with private companies paid $265 more a year.
People Power Ohariu spokesman John Maynard said it was particularly concerned about the Trans Pacific Partnership free-trade agreement being negotiated among New Zealand, the United States and at least eight other countries.
"The deal could open the Government up to being sued by a foreign investor with as little as a 1 per cent share in energy companies," Mr Maynard said.
Wellington orthopaedic surgeon Russell Tregonning is the spokesman for OraTaiao: New Zealand Climate and Health, which represented 150 doctors around the country.
He, along with other submitters, raised concerns that partially privatised energy companies would not face the same requirements as state-owned companies to take climate change into consideration.
The World Health Organisation rated climate change as the No1 health threat this century.
Mr Tregonning said his plea was also deeply personal.
"I'm a grandfather and I have fears for the world they will inhabit."
It was an often-testy session with arguments between National and Labour MPs joined by NZ First leader Winston Peters, with submitters often caught in the middle as MPs asked loaded and pointed questions.
Labour MP Trevor Mallard objected to individual submitters being given just five minutes to put their case, when organisations were given 15 minutes.
All 45 of yesterday's submitters were opposed to the asset sales.
Gordon Copeland, who led the now-defunct Kiwi Party, said he supported partial asset sales but said shares should never be sold to foreigners.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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