Local Government Minister David Carter says he would support the sale of council assets "in principle", which Labour says shows the Government's intention to do just that.

Mr Carter told TVNZ's Q & A yesterday that local governments were in a similar position to central government, which intends to balance the books by selling up to 49 per cent of shares in the state-owned energy companies, and a further stake in Air NZ.

"If they [local governments] find a way where they can sell down some of their assets to maintain the funding, to deliver some other infrastructure required within in their communities, in principle, I would support that. But having said that ... it would still be a decision for local councils to make," Mr Carter said.

"If they had shares in an airport or shares in a port company, they may well decide they could sell down some of those shares to help them provide the infrastructure which their community's demanding of them.


"I think if you look at my own city of Christchurch where we clearly have an extraordinary situation, the Christchurch balance sheet is strong with a number of assets, the council needs to make the decision. But from a ratepayer point of view, from a ministerial point of view, I think the Christchurch City Council needs to think carefully about rationalising some of those assets to help it meet its huge challenge with the rebuild of the city."

Labour's state-owned enterprises spokesman Clayton Cosgrove said Mr Carter's comments proved beyond doubt the Government's intention to see Canterbury's assets sold.