Lee: As­set sale ‘in­ter­gen­er­a­tional theft’

Western Leader - - YOUR PAPER, YOUR PLACE - JAMES PASLEY

The city has voted to sell its last re­main­ing $130 mil­lion worth of bonds and shares de­spite con­cerns it was not in its best in­ter­est.

At a heated meeting on June 20 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 voted against the sale, fear­ing it wasn’t in the best in­ter­est of the city long term.

The coun­cil would not pro­vide spe­cific de­tails of what in­vest­ments would be sold. The port­fo­lio does not in­clude coun­cil’s strate­gic as­sets such as Auck­land International Air­port and Ports of Auck­land.

In May last year $100m of in­vest­ments was sold. Another $100m was due to be sold be­fore the 2018 fi­nan­cial year. This left about $130m 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. 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.

‘‘What I’m con­cerned about is that his­tory will find us, this coun­cil, wil­fully guilty of in­ter­gen­er­a­tional theft.’’

Two com­mer­cial firms, Ernst and Young and Cameron Part­ners, ad­vised coun­cil 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.

The city will sell its fi­nan­cial port­fo­lio.

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