Protests and street rallies against state-owned assets
sales are likely to re-emerge later this year as the petition
opposing the sales gets close to the threshold for a
The Government yesterday passed the Mixed Ownership Model
Bill, meaning Mighty River Power will be the first company to
be partially sold down and listed on the NZX.
The vote, as expected, was 61 to 60. Last-minute attempts to
get United Future's Peter Dunne to change were unsuccessful.
The Government will retain at least 51% of each company, and
Finance Minister Bill English indicated yesterday some shares
might be held back for Treaty of Waitangi settlements.
Mighty River Power is expected to be listed about September.
The other companies are Genesis Energy, Meridian and Solid
Energy. The Government also intends selling down its Air New
The Government has less than two years to complete the
majority of the sales process before the next general
election. If the sales process is bungled, Opposition
political parties will gain capital. If the process goes
smoothly, and New Zealanders buy the assets and retain them,
the Government will gain.
It is likely incentives, such as loyalty shares, will be
issued to encourage New Zealanders to retain shares.
Superannuation and investment funds and iwi will be targeted
as a way of keeping shares in New Zealand hands.
Dunedin North Labour MP David Clark, a leading opponent of
the sell-down as a member of the finance and expenditure
select committee, said opposition would continue.
The petition was likely to get sufficient signatures to force
a referendum and that would put the Government on the back
foot when a "clear majority" was seen to not approve.
Only about 30 people turned up in front of Parliament
yesterday as a final protest before the Bill was passed.
Asked whether he believed protests, like the recent Dunedin
march, would continue, Dr Clark said unrest was likely to
re-emerge as the petition reached its target.
Dr Clark was certain Treaty of Waitangi claims would hold up
the sale. He was also not confident the sales would be
handled competently, which was likely to cause outrage.
As well, Dr Clark was concerned the commercial relationships
for Manapouri power use would disappear with the sell-down,
forcing new agreements to be wrapped up in red tape and
"It is hard to imagine New Zealanders having the spare cash
to buy shares in the assets," he said. "Some will, but many
won't and that will spread discontent."