2 Aug 2012

Maori Council shocked at Govt hurry-up

8:15 pm on 2 August 2012

The Maori Council says it is shocked the Government has asked the Waitangi Tribunal to speed up the delivery of its report on water rights, so the sale of shares in state assets can proceed apace.

Finance Minister Bill English and State-Owned Enterprises Minister Tony Ryall have written to the tribunal saying that in order to proceed with a Mighty River Power share offer in 2012, ministers need to make decisions by the first week of September.

In an interim report released on Monday, the tribunal asks for the sale to be delayed until it releases a more substantial report at the end of September.

Mr English says they would like to consider the tribunal's detailed findings if they get them by 24 August but can't promise to do so otherwise.

A deputy chair of the Maori Council, Rahui Katene, says the request is out of line. She says if a party in a court case were to write to the judge in such a manner they'd be held in contempt of court - and this situation is no different to that.

Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples says the Government has the right to ask for an earlier report but he expects due process to be followed.

He says the party will meet with Maori water-rights claimants on Monday before meeting with the Prime Minister.

Whole share offer programme 'could be delayed'

The tribunal produced its interim report after an eight-day urgent hearing on water rights brought on behalf of tangata whenua by the Maori Council.

In the report, it says the council's case raises some serious points and the Crown should delay the partial sale of state assets until it releases a final report on stage one of its inquiry in September.

Mr English says delaying a decision beyond the first week of September and losing the 2012 window for the offer of shares in Mighty River Power would have significant consequences, not only for the Mighty River offer but also for the rest of the share offer programme over the next two years.