Joe Hendren

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Saturday, May 13, 2006

KOPP campaign docks in Dunedin

The campaign to stop the sale of Lyttelton to a multinational port operator has now spread to Dunedin.

The Dunedin branch of Keep Our Port Public met yesterday. Green MP Metiria Turei and Victor Billot (Maritime Union of New Zealand and Alliance) spoke at the inaugural meeting.

The Otago Branch of KOPP aims to keep all ports in New Zealand in public ownership, and ensure both Lyttelton and Port Otago are kept out of the hands of privatisers. KOPP Otago also support the Maritime Union campaign to oppose the national push by multinationals to privatise ports.

"The issue is often portrayed as wheeling and dealing by big companies," says Victor Billot. "But the underlying and important issue is not about ports beating each other, it's about ports being operated in the public interest, in a responsible way, and that's what our campaign is about."

He says the involvement of Port Otago in purchasing an interest in the Lyttelton Port Company has created strong interest in the issue nationally. Mr Billot says the campaign will become a national one if there are any more moves to privatize ports.

"Publicly owned ports provide an excellent income to the citizens of New Zealand which is why they are such a juicy target for the 'pirate privatizers' who want to gain control."

Keep Our Port Public was formed in Christchurch in February 2006 after the business arm of the Christchurch City Council attempted to push forward a complex deal that would have seen the operational arm of the port of Lyttelton pass into majority ownership of Hong Kong based multinational port operator Hutchison. The deal is currently stalled after Port Otago purchased a block of shares in Lyttelton Port Company and Hutchison withdrew.

As Victor rightly points out, the proposed sale of the Lyttlelton Port Company is much more than just a "local issue to worry Cantabs". Hutchison also expressed an interest in the Auckland Port Company, and the draft long-term community plan of the Nelson City Council states that council ownership in the Nelson Port will be 'reviewed'. We all know what that means.

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