South Canterbury supporters of the citizens' initiated referendum on asset sales still think it is a good idea, despite clear indications the Government will ignore it.
Prime Minister John Key has called the referendum a "waste of money", and has indicated the asset sales could go ahead before a referendum even takes place.
Timaru Grey Power president Denise Fitzgerald and Rangitata Green Party spokeswoman Gerrie Ligtenberg disagreed.
"The referendum is estimated to cost $9 million [by the Electoral Commission], but the Government is spending more than $100m on advertising, research and consultancy fees on these asset sales," Mrs Fitzgerald said.
"People need to exercise their rights to vote. Any prime minister who ignores a majority against it would be extremely arrogant."
Mrs Ligtenberg was disappointed with Mr Key's comments.
"Everyone will get the opportunity to vote in this referendum, it's important for people to exercise their democratic rights," she said.
"I would prefer the referendum to be binding, but citizens have the right to register their opinion."
The Clerk of the House of Representatives, Mary Harris, has declared that enough signatures have been gathered to prompt a non-binding citizens' initiated referendum asking whether New Zealanders support the sale of up to 49 per cent of Meridian Energy, Mighty River Power, Genesis Power, Solid Energy and Air New Zealand.
Mighty River Power was listed on the New Zealand stock exchange earlier this year.
The 327,224 valid signatures - 18,500 more than required to initiate the referendum - were collected by the Keep Our Assets coalition, led by Grey Power and the Green Party.
Mrs Fitzgerald said the local branch of Grey Power collected more than 3000 signatures.
"The response has been great, especially from younger people. They seemed really pleased we were doing this," Mrs Fitzgerald said.
"Yes, $9m could pay for a lot of hip operations, but so could all the money the Government has wasted on this unpopular asset sales programme, and that's only after one float."
Within one month of its presentation to Parliament, the Government must set a date for the referendum or specify that it is to be a postal referendum.
The referendum must be held within 12 months of the petition's presentation, unless MPs, by a 75 per cent majority vote, agree to postpone it.
- © Fairfax NZ News