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Asset sale referendum misses threshold amid bogus sign-ups; Labour vows to reach target

Tuesday 7th May 2013

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A petition for a referendum on state asset sales has failed to garner enough signatures after double entries were weeded out and Labour has vowed to try to fill the gap over the next two months.

The petition, promoted by Labour, the Greens and Grey Power, required 10 percent of eligible voters, or 308,753 signatures, to force a referendum. It only reached about 292,000, or 16,500 fewer than was needed, the Office of the Clerk said today.

Some signatures weren't from enrolled voters and others appeared more than once, the statement from clerk Mary Harris said. The promoters have two months to make up the shortfall.

The petition was delivered on March 12 and Harris today certified that it had lapsed.

The petition was for a referendum asking whether the government had public support to sell up to 49 percent of MightyRiverPower, Meridian Energy, Genesis Power, Solid Energy and Air New Zealand.

Labour would "redouble its efforts" to drum up enough signatures, said Labour's SOE spokesperson Clayton Cosgrove.

He defended the ineligible signatures, saying it isn't unusual to have signatures ruled out because people aren't enrolled or have filled in their details incorrectly.

"We are confident that the large number of kiwis opposed means that we can gather the necessary signatures in the next two months to ensure the petition succeeds," he said.

Shares of MightyRiverPower are due to start trading on the NZX on Friday after the price is set via the institutional part of the sale. Market participants say the shares are likely to be sold at the lower end of the indicative range after Labour and the Greens said they would regulate the electricity market and impose a central purchasing agency.

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