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New Zealand's highest court allows state asset sale

Published on Feb 27, 2013 11:45 AM

WELLINGTON (REUTERS) - New Zealand's highest court cleared the way on Wednesday for the first partial sale of a state power company within months after rejecting a bid by indigenous people to delay any offer until water ownership claims were settled.

The government has a three-to-five-year programme worth up to NZ$7 billion (S$7.22 billion) to sell minority stakes in three power companies, a coal miner, and the national airline to help cut debt and return the budget to surplus by 2015.

Indigenous Maori groups wanted special rights to resources affected by the sales but the Supreme Court said the planned sale would not prevent the government from settling Maori claims to economic or other interests in the water resources.

"It is difficult to see how privatisation will make a material difference to the ultimate outcome," the court said in a unanimous judgement.

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