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Referendum to be held on asset sales

By Isaac Davison, APNZ staff

Grey Power president Roy Reid presenting the Keep Our Assets citizens initiated referendum petition to Opposition politicians at Parliament in March. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Grey Power president Roy Reid presenting the Keep Our Assets citizens initiated referendum petition to Opposition politicians at Parliament in March. Photo / Mark Mitchell

A referendum will be held on asset sales after confirmation that a petition under the Citizens Initiated Referenda Act gained the support of 10 per cent of eligible electors.

The petition, organised by the Keep Our Assets coalition and led by Grey Power president Roy Reid, asked: "Do you support the Government selling up to 49 per cent of Meridian Energy, Mighty River Power, Genesis Power, Solid Energy and Air New Zealand?"

Shares in Mighty River Power were first floated on May 10 this year.

The Clerk of the House of Representatives, Mary Harris, today said she was satisfied the petition had more than the 308,753 signatories required on March 12, the day it was delivered.

The Clerk was originally expected to announce the results at 1pm.

But an embarrassing mistake by Greens co-leader Russel Norman has marred the release for Opposition parties.

Dr Norman tweeted the news this morning, having missed the embargo.

He then tweeted an apology.

The coalition had two months to collect 16,000 valid signatures after the initial count was deemed just short of the number required. After a thorough checking process, it was estimated that 327,224 eligible electors signed the petition, about 18,500 more than required.

This is the fifth petition under the Citizens Initiated Referenda Act to proceed to a referendum.

The Speaker is expected to present the petition to the House tomorrow.

The Government will then have a month to set a date for holding the referendum or specify that it is to be a postal referendum.

The date of the referendum must be within a year of its presentation to the House, unless the House by a 75 percent majority vote agrees to postpone it for up to a further year.

Labour's SOE's spokesman Clayton Cosgrove said the asset sales programme must be halted until after the referendum.

"John Key must respect the democratic process. Over 327,000 Kiwis have called for a referendum. Their voice must be heard,'' he said.

"All asset sales should be halted until people have their say in the referendum. That includes Meridian, which is set to go on the block.''

Green Party co-leader Russel Norman said the referendum should take place as soon as possible, and argued that the partial sale of power companies should be suspended until the vote was held.

He said gaining the numbers for the referendum was not simply a moral victory.

"This is a chance for the people of New Zealand to influence the politics of the day. A lot of the other citizen-initiated referendum came after the issue concerned, whereas ... now we've got a referendum right in the middle of the Government's proposed asset-sale programme."

He pointed out that the number of people calling for a referendum was ten times as many as the number of submissions on changes to snapper quotas.

Dr Norman defended the cost of holding the referendum separately from a general election, which was estimated to be around $9 million.

"Let's put it in perspective - the Government has spent over $100 million already on an asset sale programme which is extremely unpopular."

- additional reporting Newstalk ZB

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