15 Oct 2012

SOE sale won't include special shares for Maori

10:13 pm on 15 October 2012

The Government has confirmed it will proceed with the partial sale of Mighty River Power in 2013, but will not include a special shareholding for Maori.

On Monday, the Cabinet rubber-stamped the sale of up to 49% of the state-owned company between March and June.

In September, a round of consultation hui was held with Maori who were seeking shares that would give them rights over and above other shareholders in recognition of their rights over fresh water.

Prime Minister John Key says those meetings have not changed the Government's view that, under common law no-one owns the water, but it does recognise Maori rights and interests.

Mr Key says there will be no more negotiations relating to the 'shares plus' concept, as the Government can provide financial redress and input into resource management decisions in other ways.

"From the series of hui and written submissions the Government received, it is clear Maori claim a wide range of rights and interests when it comes to water. But our position has always been very clear and, after listening carefully to the submissions at the hui, we heard nothing to change our view."

Adopting 'shares plus' would have created potential conflicts of interest within and between different iwi, he believes.

The Waitangi Tribunal had proposed that iwi and hapu affected by the sale should be given a special shareholding in the partially-privatised power companies and rights above those of other shareholders.

Mighty River Power will be removed from the State Owned Enterprises Act next week.

Maori Council to meet

Members of the Maori Council will meet on Tuesday to decide whether to challenge the Mighty River sale.

Co-chairperson Sir Edward Durie says the shares were never the council's focus and its priority is to ensure that iwi have rights to water.

Sir Edward told Checkpoint on Monday the Government has never established what those rights are.

He says the Government has indicated it wants any legal challenge to present itself quickly - and that is disappointing, as a fair Government should talk to the council about what it is trying to achieve.

Sir Edward says he supports a court case - however, iwi that are most affected do not have a lot of money, so it may not possible.