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Infratil seeks to hide ratepayer-funded profits

30 Oct 2008

Infratil seeks to hide huge ratepayer-funded profits

The Green Party is accusing Wellington bus service operator Infratil of lobbying politicians to overturn the Public Transport Management Act in order to obscure how they're spending public money.

Green Party Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons has received, along with all party leaders, a letter from Infratil, explicitly seeking to overturn the Public Transport Management Act, which ensures the public's right to see how their money is being spent. "Infratil is a multi-national contractor to Wellington Regional Council and the ratepayers of Wellington. They are substantially funded by rates and other public money. It is unacceptable for them to seek to obscure their finances from the public - particularly when a number of significant questions around their accountability already exist," Ms Fitzsimons says.

"Wellington Regional Council staff recently told Green Party researchers they have no idea how much money operators are making - but in shareholder communications, Infratil boasted they're making an excessive 20 percent after-tax profit from public transport business.

"Despite this very profitable return, the Council have inexplicably announced plans to raise bus fares yet again.

"The lobbying letter describes this 20 percent return - which it has won awards for - as 'inadequate' and then attacks the Auckland Regional Council's, where it also operates, decisions to electrify their rail network and build the Northern busway as 'poor resource allocation'.

"The recently passed Public Transport Management Act gives regional councils the power to demand operators open their books to show how they're spending public money. The Wellington Regional Council should be using their powers under the Act to enforce greater transparency and accountability.

"Now it appears the Act - which ensures our right to see how our money is being spent - is at risk of being overturned at the insistence of a very interested party - Infratil.

"The National Party and NZ First worked very hard in Parliament and Select Committee to prevent this legislation being passed. They made it clear that they may overturn it - preferring a few large operators to continue to extract monopoly profits at the taxpayers' expense and without public accountability for how taxpayers' money is spent."


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