Auckland airport has blown up into a big political row after National leader John Key suggested he would not stand in the way of a part-sale to foreign buyers.
• Blog: Labour cock-a-hoop over airport move
Share prices for Auckland airport tumbled yesterday after 11th-hour changes by the Government effectively blocked a 40 per cent shareholding from falling into the hands of a Canadian pension fund.
The move was criticised by National as politically opportunistic and likely to undermine confidence in New Zealand as an investment destination. But Mr Key had to be pressed numerous times to spell out his position on the airport sale before he would confirm that National did not support the Government’s move.
He also confirmed that a National government would not have moved against the sale if it had been clear that it met the usual overseas investment criteria.
“If it had gone through that process and been approved, then fine.”
Asset sales are a sensitive subject for National, which became embroiled in a political row last year over whether it would sell off some state assets.