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National, NZ First - Solid Energy in their sights

4 March 2005

Hon Matt Robson MP, Progressive Deputy Leader

National, NZ First – Solid Energy in their common sights

National and NZ First are still singing from the same song-sheet when it comes to selling off New Zealand-owned Solid Energy Ltd., says Progressive MP Matt Robson.

In his 1998 Budget speech Winston Peters, finance minister in the National-NZ First coalition, announced that his government "had started the process of divesting the Crown's ownership interests in the coal mining State Owned Enterprise, Solid Energy," Matt Robson said.

"The argument that National and NZ First used in 1998 was that Solid Energy, the company that mines and exports our national coal resource of which we have a 1,000 years' supply, was a 'basket case'.

"One of the first things Jim Anderton and I did at one of the first Cabinet meetings after the 1999 election was to say no to that ideologically-driven asset selling agenda.

"Today, Solid Energy is a highly profitable export-focused company and a major earner of foreign earnings for New Zealand. Solid Energy's exports ensure our already large current deficit isn't any larger," Matt Robson said.

"Yet here we have National and NZ First still stuck in the 1990s' time-warp. Still, they would sell anything that they think they could get away with no matter what long-term damage that does to our current account position or the damage to the economic development of our regions," Matt Robson said.

National finance spokesman John Key today indicated that National favours "mixed ownership" for Solid Energy opening the door to closer co-operation between National and NZ First.

Renewable resources, such as hydro, wind, geothermal and biomass, produce around 73% of the electricity that is generated in New Zealand for supply to consumers. Natural gas and coal supply the balance.

Winston Peters' May 14 1998 Budget Speech: "Key initiatives announced in the 1998 budget include decisions to negotiate with local government shareholders to divest the Crown's ownership interest in Auckland International Airport . . . The government has also started the process of divesting the Crown's ownership interests in the coal mining State Owned Enterprise, Solid Energy."

ENDS

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