Law to make port-share sales easier

By Bernard Orsman

The Government is planning to make it easier for shares in Ports of Auckland to be sold under the Super City.

It plans to repeal a law requiring a referendum of Aucklanders before a sale of any of the public's 100 per cent holding in the ports company.

The change is part of the final piece of Super City legislation, due to be introduced to Parliament next week.

Cabinet papers show Local Government Minister Rodney Hide said the referendum provision in the law required a higher level of "protection" than other council-owned assets, such as shares in Auckland Airport.

He said the rationale for the higher threshold was not apparent, but might relate to sensitivity several years ago about the potential sale of ports company shares by its then public shareholder, Infrastructure Auckland.

In Parliament yesterday, Mr Hide said the effect of the law change would be that the new Auckland Council could not consider selling shares in the ports or other public assets until after the first long-term plan in July 2012.

Labour's Auckland issues spokesman Phil Twyford said the move was further evidence of the Government's privatisation agenda.

It followed on the heels of decisions to allow private water companies to own water infrastructure for up to 35 years and repealing the requirement that councils consult the public before contracting out public services to the private sector, he said.

"Aucklanders don't want the ports flogged off," Mr Twyford said.

"They fought off privatisation in the 1990s and we'll fight it again under this National-Act coalition."

- NZ Herald

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