Winston Peters' buy back plan opposed

By Genevieve Helliwell

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A leading advocate for older people says she disagrees with a plan by New Zealand First to use Super Fund or KiwiSaver money to buy back shares of assets that are sold.

Angela Scott, president of Tauranga Age Concern, said she did not think it was a good idea and would not be in the best interests of older people.

"It doesn't sound like a very good idea but that's my personal position as Age Concern is non-political. But we do have an interest in superannuation and we would suggest this is not a good idea.

"He's mixing up two ideas - needing money to buy back assets and the money held in superannuation, but I don't think these two things go together. So no, I don't think it's a good idea."

The mixed ownership model legislation, which paves the way for asset sales, is expected to pass its final stage tomorrow, opening the way for the first partial sale of up to 49 per cent in Mighty River Power.

Mr Peters has said New Zealand First would buy back shares of assets that are sold and would pay no more than the opening price of the initial share offer.

When asked where this money would come from, he said there were many options rather than borrowing offshore - including borrowing from the Super Fund or KiwiSaver. "Or more importantly, why couldn't we just ask the New Zealand people at that time - are you in to get this back in our name, and I have enough belief in New Zealanders to know that they will have a memory of what happened here, how they were sold down the drain, to put their hand up."

Green Party candidate for Tauranga Ian Mclean said the Super Fund was an investment programme and if the people who managed the programme thought it was a good investment to buy shares, they would.

"The Green Party doesn't support the sale of assets in the first place but we have no position on who should buy those shares, but obviously we would prefer it to stay in New Zealand."

Mr McLean said superannuation funds would not be invested unless the shares were profitable and, if this was the case, he questioned why would the Government sell the shares in the first place. Labour list MP Sue Moroney did not have a stance on whether superannuation funds should be used to buy asset shares and said the sale of any state-owned asset would be bad news for the country.

"It all sounds like it will be okay because we will be able to buy it back in the future, but this stance is not the way to go," she said. "We have been through this already when Labour did sell some assets 25 years ago, and bought them back in a worse condition and paid a higher price for them.

"One obvious example is KiwiRail. That was sold to private hands but that wasn't maintained ... and when the New Zealand Government bought it back, it paid many times more times than what they sold it for.

"So we know from experience what this could mean.

"They [generate] big profits for New Zealand and we use these funds for example to keep our world-class education system in place and, if the dividends from these companies went offshore rather than return to the New Zealand economy, the country would suffer immensely."

But National MP Simon Bridges said the Government would not sell the state-owned assets if it was not necessary.

"The other political parties can disagree with our programme but it's financially irresponsible to be talking about buying them back," he said. "The most important thing is New Zealand First should tell New Zealand how they would fund the infrastructure programme that will be put in place with the funds from the sale of shares. What this will mean is better social infrastructure, including hospitals and schools."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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