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Labour launches ports transparency bill

10:30 Wed Apr 4 2012
Labour MP Darien Fenton will introduce a bill to subject ratepayer-owned ports to official information requests
Labour MP Darien Fenton will introduce a bill to subject ratepayer-owned ports to official information requests

The Labour Party has launched a new private member's bill aimed at making ratepayer-owned ports more transparent, as a deadlock in the Ports of Auckland dispute continues.

The Local Government (Council Controlled Organisations) Amendment Bill, backed by Labour MP Darien Fenton, would make information held by ports accessible under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act.

The bill would define port companies and their subsidiaries as council-controlled organisations, and make them subject to official information requests.

Ms Fenton says the government should have no problem supporting a bill to make the ports more transparent and accountable.

"Ratepayers have the right to information surrounding the management and functioning of public assets," she said.

"It's ridiculous that New Zealanders are able to request information from organisations ranging from schools to public libraries to state-owned enterprises and yet we have no way of finding out what is being done with the hundreds of millions of dollars we have tied up in port companies."

Ms Fenton says the months-long industrial dispute at Ports of Auckland has highlighted the need for her bill.

"The way in which the Ports of Auckland board and management have acted without transparency and accountability has made it very clear there is a need to ensure that these publicly-owned businesses are opened to the same scrutiny every other public institution faces."

She plans to table the bill in parliament on Wednesday.

However, it will need to be pulled from a ballot to make it onto parliament's order paper.

Ports of Auckland last week lifted a lockout notice, allowing wharfies to return to work, after the company earlier backed down from making the 292 union workers, mainly stevedores, redundant.

Ports of Auckland and the Maritime Union will continue negotiations over the port's plan to contract out work.