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Govt Sales Of State Assets Continue Despite Policy

from Brian Swale, Campaigner for sustainable forestry.

Government Sales Of State Assets Continue Despite Policy To Contrary

On National Radio, Sunday morning 15th July 2001, in the Insight Programme, in an interview purportedly for this programme, the Prime Minister said

” This government has stopped the ‘new right’ loony policy direction, that New Zealand had been following; we’re very consciously strive to get a new balance in policy which sees people’s needs come right up the agenda, ..”

The interviewer added that “The Labour - Alliance Coalition is far more prepared to intervene than its immediate predecessors. It has stopped State Asset sales, it has reformed the country’s employment laws, and it is making changes to the Public Service. But to what extent has the Labour - Alliance Coalition really turned its back on the agenda of its predecessors?”

In the 21st December 1999 Speech from the Throne, newly elected Prime Minister Helen Clark said:

“It will be made clear to the boards of SOEs and other commercial organisations that their job is not to prepare assets for sale but to enhance their value and ability to contribute to economic and social growth and development as state-owned entities.”

“Average New Zealanders will be the losers;” this is what present Forestry Minister Pete Hodgson had to say about the (National Government) sale of hydro-electricity assets in 1999 before the election “So our publicly owned hydro heritage is about to be atomised, while private sector assets are rapidly amalgamating. We are about to swap publicly owned domination of our electricity for privately owned domination.”

”That is bad, cynical, government. The bottom line is that Contact should not be sold to TransAlta. In Labour’s view, it should not be sold at all”

Forests Minister Hodgson could just as well have been speaking about the nation’s state exotic forests. Why is he silent now?

Hon Dr Michael Cullen, Minister of Finance said, on 6 March 2000 “But when foreign investment takes the form of acquisition of existing assets as an indirect type of quid pro quo for excessive consumption, then there is another dynamic operating. Bryan Philpott of Victoria University calculates that the amount of GDP accruing to foreigners has grown – in inflation adjusted terms – from $1.6 billion in 1984 to $7.4 billion in 1999. The result is that about $3,000 per person of working age per year is transferred to foreign owners of productive capacity. This must make major inroads into income levels and the well being of New Zealanders.”

Despite all these statements from this government, since taking office, significant sales of state forest land have taken place, more are planned, and government keeps silent about them all.

In the South Island alone, sales have included more than 30,000 hectares of West Coast forest to Ngai Tahu; and Geraldine forest and Silver Peaks forest to overseas concerns. The sale of Waimate forest along with some in North Otago, probably to overseas companies, is in final stages of planning. Note, Ngai Tahu usually on-sell state exotic forests that they buy.

Labour came to power on a plank of honesty.

There must be a public explanation from the current government of why this does not apply to very important and strategic forest assets for the nation that New Zealanders put a great deal of effort and skill into creating. These valuable state assets must not be sold.

Brian Swale is a forestry professional who supports the practice of environmentally sound sustainable forestry. He can be contacted at http://www.caverock.net.nz/~bj/beech/ and 03-326-7447.


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