New Zealand asset sales referendum, 2013
|New Zealand asset sales referendum, 2013|
|"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?"|
|Source: Electoral Commission|
|This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
The 2013 New Zealand asset sales referendum is a citizens-initiated referendum that took place by postal ballot from 22 November 2013 to 13 December 2013. It was on the Fifth National (Key) government's policy to partially privatise four energy-related state-owned enterprises and reducing the government's share in Air New Zealand.
In March 2013, the groups collecting signatures to force the referendum announced that they had achieved enough signatures to comfortably clear the 10% registered voters threshold. However, in May 2013, the clerk of the house announced that the petition was 16,500 signatures short of the number required (308,753), as about 100,000 signatures on the petition were faulty or invalid. The organisers had a further two months to obtain the extra signatures. In September 2013, it was officially confirmed that the added signatures had successfully been collected, with the tally now standing some 18,500 more signatures than required.
On 30 September 2013, Prime Minister John Key announced that the referendum would be via postal ballot and would take place between 22 November and 13 December. The cost of the referendum would be $NZD9 million.
The question asked was:
The National government was re-elected at the 2011 election on a platform of "Mixed Ownership Model" for the five state-owned companies Meridian Energy, Mighty River Power, Genesis Energy, Solid Energy and Air New Zealand, where a minority stake in the companies would be sold off. This policy was opposed by the opposition. A coalition of groups including the Green Party, Grey Power, Council of Trade Unions (CTU), Labour Party, New Zealand Union of Students' Associations (NZUSA), Greenpeace and others started a petition against it in April 2012. The New Zealand Herald argued in an editorial that the Green Party used parliamentary funding to pay people to collect signatures, which while legal broke a long-standing convention about citizen initiated referenda.
By July 2012, it was reported that nearly 200,000 signatures had been collected, of which 100,000 were collected by the Green Party. As a combined initiative, Labour and the Greens issued a protest T-shirt against asset sales in support of the referendum. By early January 2013, the group had collected 340,000 signatures, more than enough to force a referendum; 10% of registered voters or approximately 310,000 signatures are required to force a referendum, although more are generally required to be collected to account for invalid and duplicate signatures. By late February 2013, 391,000 signatures had been collected.
On 12 March 2013, the entire 393,000-signature petition was presented to the House. It will take up to two months to verify whether there are sufficient valid signatures to force a referendum, and if there are, the Government has one month to set a date to hold the referendum, which must occur within one year of the verified petition being presented to Parliament. As referendums must take place on a Saturday, this would put the last date to hold the referendum as 10 May 2014.
Several political commentators thought that the most likely date the referendum would be held on was Saturday 12 October 2013, in conjunction with the 2013 local elections, as most of the resources required to conduct the referendum would already be in place. Holding a referendum separate from an election process is estimated to cost $9 million. Defending this cost, Russel Norman, Greens co-leader, noted that this cost paled in comparison to the (to September 2013) $100 million cost of the asset sales program itself.
Despite the result of this referendum being not in favour of partial asset sales, Prime Minister John Key announced these partial asset sales would continue. He said: "Three in four New Zealanders said no we don't agree with Labour and the Greens. I think it will be a dismal failure from their point of view." He had also gone on to call the referendum "an utter waste of money" as he had no intention of honouring its results, claiming the Government had been re-elected at the 2011 general election partially on the basis of the pending shares sell-off.
- "Citizens Initiated Referendum 2013: Final Result". 17 December 2013. Retrieved 14 February 2014.
- Chapman, Kate (7 May 2013). "Asset sales referendum falls short". Stuff/Fairfax. Retrieved 10 April 2013.
- "Referendum to be held on asset sales". The New Zealand Herald. 2 September 2013. Retrieved 2 September 2013.
- "Dame Anne Salmond: Time to defend democratic rights". The NZ Herald. 14 March 2013. Retrieved 21 March 2013.
- Bennett, Adam (30 September 2013). "Govt sets date for asset sale referendum". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 30 September 2013.
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- Wannan, Olivia (4 January 2013). "Asset sales petition gets its numbers". Fairfax NZ. Retrieved 5 January 2013.
- "Editorial: Greens' use of public cash for petition wrong". 21 June 2012. Retrieved 10 December 2013.
- Shuttleworth, Kate (27 July 2012). "200,000 sign asset sale petition". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 5 January 2013.
- Field, Michael (31 August 2012). "Push for asset sale referendum". Fairfax NZ. Retrieved 5 January 2013.
- Small, Vernon (28 February 2013). "It's hug-a-judge time for Key over asset sales ruling". The Press. p. A13. Retrieved 2 March 2013.
- Rutherford, Hamish (12 March 2013). "Government to ignore asset sales referendum". Fairfax Media (via Stuff.co.nz). Retrieved 12 March 2013.
- "Asset sales programme to continue: Key". stuff.co.nz.