3 Sep 2013

Referendum labelled 'expensive poll'

8:24 am on 3 September 2013

An electoral law specialist says a referendum on the Government's asset sales programme is just a very expensive opinion poll.

It took the organisers of the Keep Our Assets petition two attempts to gather enough signatures to force the non-binding referendum.

It is estimated that 327,224 eligible electors signed the petition - 18,500 more than required.

The Government now has a month to set a date for the referendum.

Otago University law professor Andrew Geddis says the referendum won't have any impact as the Government is not required to act on the results.

Mr Geddis says there is no point holding a referendum unless it is legally binding.

However, the official petitioner, Greypower president Roy Reid, says it is the principle of the matter that counts.

Mr Reid says the referendum is an opportunity for New Zealanders to speak to the Government on a single issue.

The Electoral Commission says conducting a referendum by postal vote would cost about $9 million, while a referendum in which people vote in person would be about $31 million.

The referendum question is: "Do you support the Government selling up to 49% of Meridian Energy, Mighty River Power, Genesis Power, Solid Energy and Air New Zealand?"