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PM Greets Testing Station Picketer

From the Western Front: by Liz Nevill

Frank Clarke long time union leader and veteran protestor against privatisation got a surprise invitation to attend an exclusive function with the Prime Minister Helen Clark on Friday.

Ms Clark was at the Waitakere City Council Chambers to formally announce a $60m upgrade for Waitakere Hospital.

Mr Clarke was part of a small picket standing outside the Council Chambers protesting against the council's proposed sale of the Waitakere Vehicle Testing Station to a major developer.

Ms Clark recognised her old and respected friend standing on the steps of city hall, shook him warmly by the hand, and requested that he accompany her inside.

There he was able to present her with a letter from the Fair Deal Coalition demanding the Government pass legislation to stop councils selling off local assets and utilities without a mandate from ratepayers.

Outside in the rain the small but stalwart picket against the council's proposed $2.1m sale of the Testing Station, and land surrounding it, hoisted their banner. They were joined briefly by representatives of the Testing Station staff who fear for their jobs if the station business goes to a private operator.

So far around 7,000 Waitakere citizens and Testing Station customers have signed a petition against the proposed sale.

Early this week five councillors called for the decision to proceed with the sale to be rescinded. They are calling for more in-depth information on the terms and conditions of the proposed sell off and more time for public debate on the privatisation of the city owned asset.

Local MP Chris Carter, Labour, Te Atatu, is contributing to the anti-privatisation battle. He is donating $100 toward the cost of a full page advertisement in a local newspaper roasting the Go Waitakere dominated council for "selling off reserve land, charging children for the use of sports fields, penalising the poor through user pays refuse charges and threatening commercialisation of water management".

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