Greens pay staff to gather anti-asset-sales signatures

DANYA LEVY
Last updated 05:00 01/06/2012

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The Green Party is spending $50,000 paying people to collect signatures for a citizens-initiated referendum on asset sales.

The equivalent of 10 fulltime staff have been hired for the next six to eight weeks in Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin.

The Greens also have a volunteer army of about 2000 Auckland-based "issues assistants" helping with the campaign and have budgeted a further $28,000 for related sundries.

The bid for a citizens-initiated referendum was launched last month and is sponsored by a coalition of Grey Power, the Council of Trade Unions, Greenpeace, the Union of Student Associations, Labour and the Greens.

They need 310,000 signatures, 10 per cent of the voting population, to force the Government to hold a referendum. Labour has 1500 volunteers collecting signatures but is not hiring any staff.

Greens co-leader Russel Norman said the funding was coming out of the party's $1.3million annual leader's fund.

`It's very important to us to stop the asset sales and it's very important to us that New Zealanders are given a voice because they currently don't have one," he said.

Shares in the first asset to be partially privatised, Mighty River Power, are due to be put on the market sometime after July.

If the required signatures are collected, the Government would have to hold a referendum, but the result would be non-binding.

Mr Norman said National was spending $120m on the sales, including on Goldman Sachs, public relations company Senate and advertising company Clemenger.

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- The Dominion Post

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