Coun­cil to wind up port­fo­lio

Central Leader - - FRONT PAGE - JAMES PASLEY

Auck­land Coun­cil has voted to sell its last re­main­ing $130 mil­lion worth of bonds and shares de­spite con­cerns it is not in the city’s best in­ter­est.

At a heated meet­ing on Tues­day coun­cil­lors were split about whether in­vest­ments in coun­cil’s di­ver­si­fied share port­fo­lio ought to be sold.

The pro­ceeds would go to­wards re­pay­ing debt to en­able ad­di­tional in­vest­ment in public trans­port and stormwa­ter in­fra­struc­ture.

A ma­jor­ity 14 coun­cil­lors voted for di­vest­ment. How­ever, five coun­cil­lors voted against the sale, fear­ing it wasn’t in the best in­ter­est of the city long term.

The coun­cil could not pro­vide spe­cific de­tails of what in­vest­ments would be sold be­cause they were con­trolled by fund man­agers.

The port­fo­lio does not in­clude coun­cil’s strate­gic as­sets such as Auck­land In­ter­na­tional Air­port and Ports of Auck­land.

In May last year $100 mil­lion of in­vest­ments was sold. Another $100 mil­lion was due to be sold be­fore the 2018 fi­nan­cial year.

This left about $130 mil­lion in the port­fo­lio which would be sold by the end of June 2018.

Coun­cil­lor Cathy Casey said Auck­lan­ders were al­ready ner­vous about coun­cil sell­ing off as­sets.

‘‘This fund be­longs to the peo­ple of Auck­land. That’s the point of the air­port shares, that’s the point of the port, it earns us money,’’ Casey said.

‘‘We should not be play­ing cash con­vert­ers with public as­sets, strate­gic or oth­er­wise,’’ Casey said.

‘‘The feel­ing right now is if it isn’t nailed down it’s go­ing to go to the high­est bid­der.’’

Coun­cil­lor Mike Lee was also against the di­vest­ment.

Two com­mer­cial firms, Ernst and Young and Cameron Part­ners, ad­vised coun­cil that the ra­tio­nale to con­tinue hold­ing the port­fo­lio was weak.

Mayor Phil Goff was for the sale and said there were no strong grounds for keep­ing the as­sets.

‘‘Coun­cil has to get on and do what it can to in­vest in the in­fra­struc­ture we need for more homes and bet­ter trans­port sys­tems,’’ Goff said.

‘‘I have no emo­tional at­tach­ment to shares and bonds what­so­ever.’’

Coun­cil­lor Chris­tine Fletcher said the fund ought to be di­vested so public trans­port and waste­water could be im­proved.

Mayor Phil Goff is for the as­sets sale.

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