Employers and Manufacturers boss Kim Campbell has organised a meeting this afternoon to discuss strategies to soften up Aucklanders for the sale of the remaining shares in lines company Vector to pay for new roads, Labour's energy spokesman Stuart Nash claims.
Mr Nash said the meeting was "underhanded and puts at risk the 75.1 per cent of the company owned by Aucklanders through the Auckland Energy Consumer Trust (AECT)".
"This year the AECT paid a dividend of $335 to every Auckland power consumer, and for big business to even consider selling this shareholding down is a disgrace."
Mr Nash's claim comes amid a push for the Vector shares held by the trust to be transferred to Auckland Council, a move opposed by the trust which has hired public relations consultant Matthew Hooton to advise on its defence.
In an invitation to the meeting sighted by the Herald, Mr Campbell says the EMA "agrees the Trust should be wound up and its assets returned to Auckland Council control provided the Council uses them to build new infrastructure for Auckland".
"To achieve this outcome will require a majority of Aucklanders to agree, but to inform them further about the AECT and the benefits of an early transfer of its assets a public campaign may well be required. To canvas this issue and the nature of such a campaign and the possible ways forward EMA is calling a meeting of interested organisations."
Invited guests are a who's who of Auckland business groups and road transport lobbyists including Auckland Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Auckland Business Forum, the NZ Council for Infrastructure Development , the Automobile Association, the NZ Property Council and the NZ Contractors Federation.
Mr Campbell told the Herald the meeting was called "because we want to get roads built in Auckland".
"This is not about the trust, this is about how we finance Auckland's transport. Where is the money going to come from? This trust is one possible option."
"The shares vest into the council in 2073 in any event but personally I think the best thing to do is for the shares to be sold like I think the other assets should be sold like the port and the airport and those assets should be recycled directly into capital assets for the city."
Mr Nash said the trust's yearly dividend to consumers was important to families who were struggling with rising power prices and increased costs of living.
But Mr Campbell said that if the money didn't come from the sale of assets such as Vector shares, struggling families would be "spending more money on road tolls and other means".
"The money's got to come out of the community somewhere."
Winding up the AECT early would require backing from Energy and Resources Minister Simon Bridges and legislation.
Mr Nash said Mr Bridges "must send a very clear message to Kim Campbell and the EMA that he will not tolerate this type of behaviour".
"This is a couple of business men who see an opportunity to make a quick buck off a monopoly asset owned by good hardworking Kiwis who rely on their annual dividend.
"Personally, I find it reprehensible and I would like Minister Bridges to stand up for those who don't have a voice, but who have the most to lose; the people of Auckland."
Mr Bridges last night said: "This is an issue for Auckland Council and the AECT on which the Government maintains a neutral stance. Government intervention would be a significant step and wouldn't be undertaken lightly".