20 Sep 2012

Government not worried by small turnout at water hui

6:15 am on 20 September 2012

The Government says it is not worried by a very small turnout at its first water consultation hui held in Hamilton on Tuesday night.

Only 15 people turned up and four were children, while iwi or hapu leaders from within Tainui were no-shows as they had promised.

The hui was the first of six meetings Finance Minister Bill English is holding throughout the country over 10 days after the Government decided to delay the sale of shares in state-owned company Mighty River Power until early 2013.

The meetings are being held to consult iwi and hapu on the Waitangi Tribunal proposal that they be given a special shareholding (known as shares plus) in the partially-privatised power companies and rights above those of other shareholders.

The Government rejects the proposal, but is still consulting iwi who have a specific connection to freshwater and geothermal resources used by state-owned power companies Mighty River Power, Meridian and Genesis.

Tuesday's hui was supposed to be by invitation only, but no person with one actually came and it was left to ordinary Maori to overcome a lack of real information about it, including where it was to be held.

After a powhiri and a presentation by Mr English on his plan to partially privatise state-owned power generation companies, those there could ask questions and debate the issue. The media were allowed to attend, but not record.

After the meeting, Mr English rejected suggestions that the hui was just a sop to consultation, saying the meetings are not just a symbolic exercise to tick the box of consultation.

The minister told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report programme on Wednesday that iwi are free to show up or not as they wish.

"Most of the points of view we'd expect to hear were articulated there, ranging from the considered through to the more aggressive and a bit of abuse."

Mr English says the Government is open to hearing views about ways of solving the water-rights problem.

Waste of time, says Morgan

The spokesperson for the Kingitanga and the Maori King, Tukoroirangi Morgan, describes the hui as a non-event, and a waste of time and money. He says the people that did attend do not represent the 60,000 people in Waikato-Tainui.

Mr Morgan says Maori will not be sidetracked by the Crown agenda on water rights and are in the fight for the long term.

He told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report programmeon Wednesday that nothing Maori have secured over the years has been as a result of a brief encounter with the Crown.

"One thing is certain here is that we'll be on this side of the table, but come the next election there is no guarantee that the current government may be there. So we're going to be there for a long time until our interests and rights are determined and sorted."

Ngati Koroki Kahukura, one of the tribes from the Tainui waka, made it plan from the start it was not going to attend.

Chief negotiator Willie Te Aho says the tribe has no interest in obtaining shares in any state-owned power company - just interest in getting control them, particularly Mighty River Power.