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The Family silver: the sale of Wellington Airport (A) 2009-77.1

13 March 2009



At 3 pm on Thursday 30 July 1998, the Wellington City Council met in special session to consider the sale of its 34 percent shareholding in Wellington International Airport Ltd (WIAL), the company that owned and operated Wellington Airport. The New Zealand government held the other 66 percent of shares. Government’s long-standing policy was to divest such assets; its coalition partner since 1996, New Zealand first, was challenging this policy. Moreover, public consultation had become dominated by opposition to the proposal. Wellington Mayor Mark Blumsky had assured the Government he had a majority of the 18-member Council in favour of the sale. After extensive consultation, most Councillors held firm positions for or against the sale. But two had made no commitment.

This case has been prepared for class discussion on the interplay between politics and rationality in public decision-making. Part A offers background information and details stakeholder interests either for or against the sale, and how the Council itself was divided on the proposal.

Read more:

  • In Part B, while increased pressure comes on the Council from the Government to vote for a sale, pressure is also being put by the coalition partner New Zealand First to retreat from the sale.
  • The epilogue describes the national political events, culminating in the collapse of the coalition, that followed the Council’s decision not to sell its shares and the Government’s decision to proceed with the sale. The epilogue updates the subsequent roles of key players.
Authors: Janet Tyson, Rob Laking
Published Date: 13 March 2009
Author Institution: Victoria University of Wellington
Featured Content Length: 1
Content Length: 11
Product Type: Case with teaching note, Part A, Primary resources