Emphatic city vote against asset sales

LUCY TOWNEND
Last updated 09:00 14/12/2013

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Palmerston North people have voted overwhelmingly against the Government's asset sales programme, pushing above the national average, with opponents outnumbering supporters by more than two to one in a citizens-initiated referendum.

The Electoral Commission revealed that 895,322 registered voters had said they did not support the Government selling up to 49 per cent of Meridian Energy, Mighty River Power, Genesis Power, Solid Energy and Air New Zealand.

That was slightly more than double the 432,950 who said they did support the sales.

Turnout in the vote showed 67.2 per cent of the total number of eligible registered voters were against asset sales and 32.5 per cent for.

In Palmerston North 70.4 per cent of the valid vote count said no, and 29.3 per cent said yes.

The poll is not binding and the Government has effectively said it would ignore the result.

Palmerston North's Labour MP Iain Lees-Galloway said the Government needed to listen to what people were saying, that assets sales were not the way to go, proven by the referendum's results.

"What New Zealand has done is a favour for the Government because they have given them a reason to bring this failed programme to an end," he said. "Sadly we've got a Government that doesn't listen, but that's not a reason to be silent and New Zealand hasn't been silent."

Rangitikei's National Party MP Ian McKelvie said there was always going to be a "distorted result" from the referendum because the emphasis was placed on one side's advertising over the others.

Although the total count of votes - which reached more than 1.3 million - was a strong turnout, it was not strong enough.

"I don't think for a minute it would [encourage change], in years to come we will see the benefits of this policy in a very different form than perhaps anticipated.

"The growth in our capital markets, in my view, will make a big difference in New Zealand in the future."

Mr McKelvie said asset sales created an opportunity for Kiwis to invest in the country and "buy New Zealand made".

Deepika Gosai, who led the anti-asset sales campaign in Palmerston North, said depending on the Government's response campaigners might regroup ahead of election year.

"We live in a democracy and it needs to be addressed that the people have spoken and this is what they want . . . It's quite a huge majority, and there should be some sort of action."

Independent reviews were needed to show the true nature of the asset sales and how they affected New Zealand's economy, Ms Gosai said.

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BY THE NUMBERS

Palmertson North Number of electors on the roll: 42,105 Total valid votes received: 19,295 Percentage turnout: 45.9 per cent For: 5655 = 29.3 per cent Against: 13586 = 70.4 per cent Rangitikei Number of electors on the roll: 40,436 Total valid votes received: 19,893 Percentage turnout: 49.2 per cent For: 7110 = 35.7 per cent Against: 12,720 = 63.9 per cent

- Manawatu Standard

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