Kurt Bayer

Kurt Bayer is an NZME. News Service reporter

Asset sales 'like a farmer eating his last chicken'

Solid Energy is one of four state owned energy companies facing partial sales. File photo / NZPA
Solid Energy is one of four state owned energy companies facing partial sales. File photo / NZPA

Selling off New Zealand's state owned assets is like a farmer eating his last chicken, MPs were told today.

Parliament's finance and expenditure committee today heard dozens of submissions on the partial privatisation or Mixed Ownership Model Bill - the legislation which will facilitate the partial (49 per cent) sale of four state owned energy companies - Meridian Energy, Genesis Power, Mighty River Power and coal company Solid Energy.

Local woman Prue Stringer told the committee sitting in Christchurch this morning that she was "one of the huge majority" who opposed the bill.

She cited a recent Massey University poll that found 75.9 per cent of people were against it.

Ms Stringer said selling the assets had been likened to selling the family silver.

But she said it was more akin to "selling off the family cow ... or eating your last chicken".

"You might get one or two meals, but no more daily eggs. What intelligent farmer would do that?" she asked the committee. The submissions heard so far today were all against the plan.

David Clark, Labour MP for Dunedin North, said: "I've certainly not heard a submitter who supports the bill."

Retired schoolteacher of economics and accounting Lindsay Carswell said the Government's desire to push through the mixed ownership model was "ideologically driven.

He said it was not in the best interest of ordinary New Zealanders to sell the profitable companies, pointing to recent reports showing the four firms generating returns "well in excess" of what it costs the Government to own them.

The Government has argued that ordinary "mums and dads" will be able to buy shares in the partly privatised power companies.

But Labour List member Clayton Cosgrove asked Mr Carswell if average Kiwi "mums and dads" would be in a position to "rush down to their share broker to buy shares they already own?"

He agreed that they wouldn't be able to, adding: "Utilities are great companies to own because of the profit - the cash flows are enormous and the big wheeler dealers would snap them up very quickly and mums and dads will be pushed aside."

Clifford Mason submitted that the sales would result in increased power prices, while Tony Milne said the bill represented a "bankrupt vision".

The hearing continues.

- APNZ

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