Dec. 17, 2013, 4:24 p.m.
From November 22 to December 13, 2013, voters in New Zealand participated in a citizens initiated referendum concerning the government’s decision to sell some of its assets. The current National government was elected in 2011 on a platform of mixed ownership for five state-owned companies – Meridian Energy, Mighty River Power, Genesis Energy, Solid Energy, and Air New Zealand. Opposition to the sale of stakes in these companies was widespread, and by March 2013, the opposition had collected 393,000 signatures to force a referendum on the topic. The National government organized a referendum by postal ballot, where voters were asked “Do you support the Government selling up to 49% of Meridian Energy, Mighty River Power, Genesis Energy, Solid Energy, and Air New Zealand?” On December 17, 2013, the final results from the referendum were released. A majority of voters opposed the asset sales, an in the referendum only 442,985 voters (32.40 percent) voted in favor of the asset sales, and 920,188 voters (67.30 percent) opposed the sales. Over the course of the referendum, 1,368,925 New Zealanders (45.07 percent) cast a ballot. Citizens initiated referendums in New Zealand are non-binding on the government, and Prime Minister John KEY has said that he will continue with plans to sell the government’s assets despite the results of the referendum.