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Government considered range of options on airport

23 April 2008 Media Statement

Government considered range of options on airport

Official documents released today show that the Labour-led government considered a range of options to protect New Zealand control of Auckland International Airport.

Finance Minister Michael Cullen said the government believed strongly that strategic infrastructure like the airport should be protected in the interests of New Zealanders and worked with officials to take the most efficient steps in order to achieve that aim.

“Auckland Airport is New Zealand’s main gateway to the world,” Dr Cullen said. “A number of countries, including Australia, have taken steps to protect their international gateways from foreign control.

“There was a high degree of debate and uncertainty surrounding the airport’s future earlier this year and a great deal of speculation about the government’s intentions. We wanted to make the government’s concerns absolutely clear and transparent and we worked with officials on the most efficient approach to do so.

“The government originally considered introducing legislation to mandate majority New Zealand ownership in the airport, but accepted Treasury’s advice that it was more appropriate to change regulations under the Overseas Investment Act. Treasury’s advice was that a legislative ownership restriction, such as that adopted by National leader John Key, would have run counter to our international trade obligations.

“It will come as no surprise that the government and the Treasury disagreed on the need to protect New Zealand control of such a vital strategic asset. We rejected, for example, the Treasury’s view that the interests of a major overseas shareholder, who in this case would have been a somewhat passive investor, would likely align with New Zealand’s national interest.

“In the end we made a decision we are confident was in the best interest of New Zealanders and we appreciate the professional approach adopted by the Treasury during this process.

“Now presented with the evidence that their 51 per cent domestic ownership policy is unworkable, National needs to clarify what they would really do, if anything, to protect strategic assets.”

ENDS

Treasury report (PDF)
Cabinet Paper

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