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Airport sell-off has risks for tourist industry

Auckland Airport sell-off has risks for tourist industry

Green Media Release 23rd July 2007

The proposed takeover of Auckland International Airport by Dubai Aerospace raises real concerns with regard to foreign ownership of strategic assets and the potential for monopoly pricing, says the Green Party

"Auckland International Airport is the single most important piece of monopoly transport infrastructure in the country because it is the major entry point for tourists visiting New Zealand. Tourism is our single largest export industry and Auckland International Airport is the single most important asset in the tourist industry.

"Having this strategic asset controlled by a single foreign corporation raises concerns about they will use that asset. Will it be used to advance the interests of the tourist industry nationally or as a cash cow adding to our current account deficit as profits are repatriated overseas?

"If the airport is controlled by a single overseas owned corporation we run the risk of monopoly rents being charged.

"This is particularly concerning because the Commerce Commission is not legally allowed to direct airports on their level of fees - airports can set their fees as they wish regardless of whether they are reasonable or not. In 2002 the Commerce Commission declared that the landing fee increases were too high and warned of monopolistic behaviour, but it couldn't do much about it.

"Coming on top of the attempt to buy up Tourism Holdings Limited, tourists to New Zealand could be landing at a foreign owned airport, travelling in foreign owned campervans, and visiting foreign owned iconic tourist sites and spending money which will simply go back to the overseas owners. Where is the gain for New Zealand in having our tourist sector dominated by foreign owners. The Greens may have disagreements with Fonterra over greenhouse emissions but at least the dairy farmers have kept their industry New Zealand owned.

"It is a faint hope to think that the Overseas Investment Office would take these issues into account but if it was doing its job it would be very suspicious of this buyout.

ENDS

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