Preliminary results of referendum show of more than 1.3m valid votes cast, 67.2 per cent voted against, 32.5 per cent in favour of asset sales

Voters have given the Government's flagship asset sales policy an emphatic two-to-one thumbs down, ratcheting up pressure for the sale of Genesis Energy - the remaining asset in the programme - to be shelved.

The citizens initiated referendum (CIR) on asset sales closed last night and as expected, most of those who voted opposed the partial sell-off of state-owned power companies and Air New Zealand.

In the preliminary result released last night, 67.2 per cent of those who voted said they did not support the Government selling up to 49 per cent of Meridian Energy, Mighty River Power, Genesis Power, Solid Energy and Air New Zealand. Almost one third - 32.5 per cent - voted for the sales.

The number of valid votes cast was 1,332,340. Some 43.9 per cent of eligible voters took part.


The CIR has come as the partial assets sales programme is almost over, with Genesis the only remaining company earmarked for partial sale yet to go on the block.

While the referendum is non-binding, Opposition parties hoped a vote against the Government on the issue would persuade it not to proceed with the Genesis sale which is scheduled for the first few months of next year.

Prime Minister John Key has indicated his Government will take little notice of the result of the referendum, describing it as a political stunt by Labour and the Greens which has cost the taxpayer $9 million.

Mr Key has said the result would be "interesting" if it showed voters who opposed the asset sales programme totalled more than a million - the number of votes National got at the last election which was largely fought on the issue. The Electoral Commission figures issued last night show that 895,322 voters opposed the asset sales.

Mr Key and Mr English have said in recent weeks that the Genesis sale remains on track in spite of market chatter the sale is now unlikely to proceed as planned.

Mr English says the programme is a success so far despite recently acknowledging it is likely to raise only about $3.8 billion, well below the $5 billion-$7 billion originally forecast.

The referendum's official result will be published on Tuesday.