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Cullen should be setting a precedent with Powerco

21 October 2004

Cullen should be setting a new precedent with Powerco

The Government's decision to approve Prime's purchase of Powerco reinforces the reality that rip off merchants can gobble up New Zealand's key strategic assets with impunity, says the Green Party.

Yesterday Finance Minister Michael Cullen approved the sale of a majority stake in Taranaki-based electricity lines company Powerco to Australia's Prime Infrastructure Networks.

"Michael Cullen claims he has approved the sale with great reluctance on the basis of precedent," said Green Co-Leader Rod Donald. "It is time this Labour Government established a new precedent that our key strategic infrastructure must remain in New Zealand ownership.

"Dr Cullen has just had to buy back our ailing rail track network from overseas asset-strippers and will have to pour hundreds of millions of taxpayers dollars into fixing it up. He should have learnt some lessons from that experience.

"Clearly it is not in New Zealand's national interest for any of power line network to fall into foreign control anymore than it was in our national interest for the rail network to have fallen into overseas ownership.

"New Zealand's foreign investment rules should be rewritten to stop the sale of all land and strategic infrastructure and to tighten the national interest and good character test for business investment.

"Prime have bought Powerco because they want to make a profit, not because they want to provide a reliable and affordable service to all Taranaki energy consumers, particularly those who live in outlying rural areas.

"Michael Cullen's decision highlights the Government's determination to keep foreign investors happy instead of protecting the interests of New Zealanders," said Mr Donald.

ENDS

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