Share offer distracting and dividing - Waikato iwi

10:25 am on 18 October 2012

A Waikato tribe says the Government's state-owned asset share offer to tribes is an attempt to divide Maori over water rights.

The Government on Wednesday said it would set aside shares in state-owned energy companies for iwi that have not yet settled their Treaty claims.

It plans to sell up to 49% of Mighty River Power in the first half of next year, and in the subsequent year to put up Genesis Energy and Meridian Energy for partial sale.

About 65 iwi are to be offered the opportunity to take shares - and the stakes would be available up front before their Treaty settlement package is finalised.

But Waikato iwi Ngati Hikairo is opposed to the partial sale of power generators until Maori water rights are resolved.

Kaumatua Jack Cunningham says the share offer is a distraction to delay tackling the issue of proprietary ownership.

He says the move is just a red herring, and until the Government settles Maori water rights and faces the problem as they did with the Foreshore and Seabed, the issue will come up again and again.

Ngati Rangi in Ruapehu and Nga Ruahine in South Taranaki have also expressed their desire to hold back on the Government's offer until the water rights issue has been resolved.

Nga Ruahine chairperson Daisy Noble says Maori wanted the water issue settled first, though she says if the share opportunity is there, Maori are likely to look at it.

Mana Party leader Hone Harawira says the offer would compromise Maori claims to water rights, but the Maori Council, which is likely to launch a judicial challenge against the Mighty River Power sale, disagrees.

Council lawyer Felix Geiringer says the claim for proprietory rights over water has nothing to do with the offer of shares and the offer neither resolves or interferes with the water dispute.