Port Otago full sale option considered

Ella Lawton
Ella Lawton
A complete sale of the Otago Regional Council-owned Port Otago is one option being considered in an ownership review of the $489million business.

At a meeting yesterday the council agreed to commission an independent review of its 100% ownership of the port company, which makes up 75% of its total $650million in assets.

As part of this consultants would create an overview of different ownership models, including a ''complete sell down'' and mixed ownership.

Cr Ella Lawton said the review should also investigate the social and environmental impacts of selling parts of the company.

''There's more to being an owner than the financial gain we receive from this organisation.''

The council had responsibilities to the community and currently had ''significant opportunity'' to change the course of the port's future.

It had a much stronger community mandate than a ''run-of-the-mill corporate'' enterprise, she said.

Cr Gretchen Robertson agreed the social and environmental impacts of different ownership models should be assessed.

It was obvious if the council was not the majority shareholder of the port its influence on operations would be diminished, she said.

Cr Michael Laws said the impacts of the review could be ''huge''.

''We're talking about the privatisation or part privatisation of the Port of Otago here.

''Of course we should review ownership and see if it's working for us and no sale will occur without public consultation.''

Cr Bryan Scott said he would be interested to know what the financial obligations and opportunities were for the council.

''There's no sense of selling part of the port if we don't need the money.''

Cr Sam Neill said some councillors were ''getting ahead of the game'' as no sale had been suggested yet.

However, he would not support selling part of the port in the future.

Council chairman Stephen Woodhead said the council needed to be careful not to get too far ahead of itself.

The council has owned the company since 1989 when it was valued at $20million.

jono.edwards@odt.co.nz

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