Clayton Mitchell: New Zealanders paying the price for past asset sales

Opinion 28/08/2019

By Clayton Mitchell, New Zealand First List MP.

The sale of New Zealand’s valuable assets in recent years has proved to be short-sighted and fundamentally flawed. The sales have created a raft of issues, which the Coalition Government is now having to address.

New Zealand First has a proud history of fighting against asset sales, fully aware of what the long-term repercussions are likely to be for the country.

Overseas buyers are only concerned about profit, not the greater good of New Zealand.

Consider the power companies. The last National Government sold Mighty River Power, Meridian Energy and Genesis Energy. The most tangible outcome of this has been skyrocketing residential power prices, up around 50 percent since 2000. New Zealand now has the unenviable reputation of being one of the most expensive countries in the world for electricity.

Ironically, it was only last week that National’s Jonathan Young asked Energy Minister Megan Woods at Question Time in the House why the power price on a given day last month was 67 percent higher than a year ago. Seasonal spikes aside, Mr Young needs to be reminded that the situation is all of National’s making.

The Coalition Government has stepped up to relieve the pressure on consumers, with the Winter Energy Payment available to a million low-income New Zealanders struggling to meet the cost of winter power bills. But this is a stop-gap measure. We need to address the root cause of the problem and make longer term changes to the electricity industry which will benefit consumers.

New Zealand First campaigned on the need to hold a review into electricity pricing, and negotiated for this during our coalition negotiations. We are currently awaiting the final report and remain committed to shaping a market which delivers fair and equitable prices to all power users.

But power prices are only one example of marketisation leading to increased cost and decreased service for New Zealanders. Think state housing, rail, banks, postal services.

New Zealand First has a long and proud history of fighting to keep our precious assets in our hands.

The Coalition Government, of which we are an active partner, stepped up only months ago to ban foreign buyers of New Zealand housing stock. We cannot have New Zealanders priced out of their own housing market.

New Zealand is not up for sale to the highest bidder. We are not ripe for the picking. Our valuable assets need to stay in the hands of those who prioritise the needs of Kiwis. New Zealand First remains committed to fighting the fight whenever it is needed.

Clayton Mitchell is List MP for New Zealand First.