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Lyttelton Port Company Sale

10 April 2006

Lyttelton Port Company Sale

This is a statement on behalf of the Canterbury Labour and Progressive Members of Parliament: Jim Anderton, Ruth Dyson, Clayton Cosgrove, Tim Barnett and Mahara Okeroa. Lianne Dalziel has to stand aside from the public statement because, as Minister of Commerce, she is a decision maker under the Commerce Act.

We have serious concerns about both the process and the potential outcome of the proposed sale into the private sector of the majority shareholding in the operation arm of the Lyttelton Port Company.

In holding these serious concerns we also believe that the current competitive situation and price gouging actions of New Zealand Ports is unsustainable in the longer term.

The current situation, which is a direct result of the so-called "Shipping Reforms" of the 1990s, leave all New Zealand Ports vulnerable to the whims of the Shipping Companies. These reforms have also resulted in New Zealand Ports competing against each other, and often price gouging in order to attract business. This pricing regime is not sustainable, which will mean that some of our Ports will fold.

One alternative to this current unsustainable situation is indeed that proposed by Christchurch Holdings. Their proposal could possibly give Lyttelton a competitive advantage over other New Zealand Ports and could strength Lyttelton Port. But it may be at the cost of current employment security and involves the loss of a public asset.

A stronger and more competitive Lyttelton Port, with protected employment security, could be achieved in another way; by much closer collaboration between New Zealand Ports.

New Zealand Port companies need to get a strong message that they cannot continue to compete if they want to survive. Port reform needs to move to another stage where New Zealand Ports collaborate to compete internationally.

So we have two messages:

The first is that that we cannot continue as we are and expect all New Zealand Ports to survive. We have to collaborate to compete internationally.

The second message is the sale of the operational arm of the Lyttelton Port Company is not the only option or the best option, and therefore it should not be supported. It is the sale of a strategic asset and it should be kept in public ownership in New Zealand.

ENDS

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