Matthew Backhouse

Matthew Backhouse is an APNZ news reporter based in Wellington.

390,000 sign petition against asset sales

Photo / Supplied
Photo / Supplied

The Government will push ahead with asset sales regardless of a referendum on the issue, Finance Minister Bill English says.

A petition against asset sales with more than 390,000 signatures will be presented to Parliament this afternoon.

The petition would trigger a citizens initiated referendum on the issue if the Clerk of Parliament finds at least 10 per cent of registered voters have signed.

But the outcome of a referendum would not sway the Government's asset sales plan, with Mr English telling TV3's Firstline this morning it would go ahead with the sales.

"We've already launched the Mighty River Power float and there will be others. This is an issue that was campaigned on right through election year.

"We laid out the policy in detail, the opposition parties had a year to debate it and they didn't win the election. So we're proceeding with the sakes on the basis of that mandate."

Mr English said the petition had gathered more than 300,000 signatures in a year, while more than 250,000 people had registered to buy Mighty River shares in 10 days.

Keep Our Assets coalition spokesman Roy Reid said the Government should give New Zealanders a chance to vote on the asset sales plan, and listen to what they had to say.

"Hundreds of thousands of ordinary Kiwis have got behind this referendum, both signing the petition and helping to collect signatures. It has been a real citizens' effort," he said.

Only four previous petitions have gathered the required number of signatures to trigger a referendum.

"It is no small feat, and the large number of signatures highlights the public's strong opposition to asset sales," Mr Reid said.

The Keep Our Assets coalition said it had collected between 390,000 and 400,000 signatures for checking.

Only about 308,000 signatures were needed to trigger a referendum, but previous petitions had an error rate of up to 20 per cent.

It could take two months for the signatures to be officially counted.

Once a verified petition was reported back to Parliament, the Government would have one month to determine how and when a referendum would take place. The referendum must be held within a year.

- APNZ

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