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Key's visit an asset sale target

MATTHEW LITTLEWOOD
Last updated 05:00 05/07/2012
tash turner brett jenkins
MYTCHALL BRANSGROVE/ Fairfax NZ

KEEP OUR ASSETS: Tash Turner gets Brett Jenkins to sing the Keep Our Assets petition in a bid to trigger a referendum on the controversial state asset sales.

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Prime Minister John Key may encounter anti-asset sales protesters at the opening of the new Caroline Bay aquatic centre.

Mr Key will cut the ribbon for the Caroline Bay Trust Aoraki Centre on July 27, but some are seeing the event as an opportunity to voice their opposition against the Government's moves to sell down up to 49 per cent of four state-owned energy companies and Air New Zealand.

the Green Party spokesperson for Rangitata, Gerrie Ligtenberg, said she would be making herself heard at the event, collecting signatures seeking to force a referendum on asset sales.

During the past month she has collected more than 200 signatures, and Timaru Grey Power, a partner in the national Keep Our Assets group, had collected 1500.

"When the prime minister comes to visit, I will be there collecting signatures for the petition, and making myself heard," Mrs Ligtenberg said.

Timaru Grey Power president Denise Fitzgerald said her group would also consider staging a protest.

"I'll probably set up a stall to collect signatures near the prime minister [when he comes to Timaru]. The local branch will discuss whether we will do anything more than that at our next meeting.

"New Zealanders already own these companies," she said. "Private shareholders are going to want better returns, and that in turn could lead to higher power prices."

Last month, the Government passed the Mixed-Ownership Model Bill by 61 votes to 60.

Mr Key believes the Government could gain as much as $10billion from the sales.

However, the Keep Our Assets group hopes to collect more than 310,000 petition signatures to trigger a Citizens' Initiated Referendum on the sales. A nationwide anti-asset sales protest is planned for July 14. Keep Our Assets spokesperson Arena Williams more than 100,000 people nationwide had signed the petition since it was launched on April 27.

"Several thousand signatures are coming in each week. The passing of the bill was a bit of a blow, but it is important we keep the heat on the Government about this," she said.

"People feel really powerless, this is a way they can pressure the Government to stop the sales," she said.

Keep Our Assets petitioner Tarsh Turner was on Stafford St yesterday collecting signatures.

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- The Timaru Herald

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