Referendum chance to say 'No' to asset sales

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Under New Zealand law, citizens-initiated referendums are non-binding on the Government. Voting papers for the current referendum must be returned by December 13.
Under New Zealand law, citizens-initiated referendums are non-binding on the Government. Voting papers for the current referendum must be returned by December 13.

Elderly people don't want to buy back state assets they already own, Wairarapa Grey Power says.

A citizens-initiated referendum on asset sales is now under way, amid controversy and protest at the Government's "mixed-ownership policy".

Prime Minister John Key has said the Government will ignore an unfavourable response and proceed with its plans to partially privatise Genesis Energy.

The Electoral Office estimates 51,300 people are eligible to vote in the Wairarapa, with 50,104 currently enrolled - 98 per cent of eligible voters.

Wairarapa had a 61 per cent voter turnout in the 2009 smacking referendum.

"I don't think for one moment that anything other than a very, very high proportion will say, 'You've got no right to sell the assets'," Grey Power Wairarapa president George Groombridge said.

"The elderly people think, 'Why are we buying back something that we already own?' When you break it down, that's the gist of it."

Older people didn't buy into the idea that "Mr and Mrs New Zealand" would be buying the shares.

"The majority of New Zealanders haven't got that sort of money. They're coping, but only just.

"We've got a prime minister who is a financier, and we need to be in a situation where the prime minister is sympathetic to the people."

Grey Power was encouraging its members to vote "No" in the referendum, Mr Groombridge said.

Voting papers for the current citizens-initiated referendum started arriving in letterboxes on November 22, with the question: "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?"

As of November 27, 73,255 voting papers had been returned - representing 2.4 per cent of the country's 3,030,707 enrolled voters.

Under New Zealand law, citizens-initiated referendums are non-binding on the Government.

Voting papers for the current referendum must be returned by December 13.

- Wairarapa Times-Age

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