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. In the first, Councillors voted eleven to seven for the Council "to inform Government in making its decision that its preference is not to sell the Airport at this stage." The Mayor, who had been convinced he had the numbers, was not yet ready to concede defeat. The Government had still to officially decide whether it would sell its own shares. The Council would then meet again to review its decision, much of it down to two councillors.
This case has been prepared for class discussion on the interplay between politics and rationality in public decision-making. 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.
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