Asset sales are a controversial and often emotional issue. That is why National has been very careful to lay out its policy in advance, and keep to it.
In 2008 National said no SOEs would be sold in the first term, and none were.
In 2011 National said up to 49% of four power SOEs and Air NZ would be sold, and they were (except Solid Energy that collapsed).
In 2014 National said no further sales of SOEs and there are none planned.
It took months of briefings, quiet lobbying, and frank meetings to bring the Left-leaning People’s Choice councillors around to the inescapable truth that some asset sales would be needed to solve the city’s financial woes.
Those meetings happened right up until late Thursday afternoon, which suggests some councillors were still wavering.
The reason the People’s Choice councillors – Andrew Turner, Jimmy Chen, Pauline Cotter, Yani Johanson, Phil Clearwater, and Glenn Livingstone– were reluctant to go down the path of asset sales was because they had signed a pledge before last October’s elections to support keeping all significant public assets in public ownership and control.
They didn’t want to be seen to be going back on their word.
They were confident that if they pored over the council’s budgets, cutting expenditure and deferring capital projects, they could achieve the necessary savings without asset sales.
Alas, it was not to be and on Thursday the People’s Choice councillors reluctantly threw in the towel and acknowledged the funding gap, which has jumped from $900 million to $1.2 billion, was too large to close through savings.
“Our preferred option is not to sell assets, however, the financial position in which the council has been placed requires us to sell assets as one of the number of things we need to do to fill the funding gap,” they conceded in a statement issued through Turner, their spokesman.
This is not true. There is a choice. They have chosen to break their word. I think their policy was stupid and wrong, but they made it.
The People’s Choice is the Labour Party in Christchurch local government politics. In fact most of the PC Councillors had their affiliation on their ballot as (The People’s Choice – Labour).
So the moral of the story is that National has kept its word on asset sales, and Labour once again has not.