8 Aug 2012

PM agrees to talk to pan-Maori water rights group

10:30 am on 8 August 2012

The Maori Party says the Prime Minister has agreed to talk to a new pan-Maori group about water rights but that is unlikely to have any effect on the Government's partial privatisation plan.

Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples and other senior Maori leaders met John Key on Monday night to discuss the matter.

At a hui on Monday afternoon, Maori agreed to set up better structure so they could properly discuss among themselves their rights and interests in water - and Dr Sharples says that was raised with Mr Key at the meeting.

He says the Prime Minister indicated the Government would meet the group and that it would do nothing on selling shares in Mighty River Power until it had received the Waitangi Tribunal's shortened version of its report on water rights by 24 August.

Dr Sharples concedes that is unlikely to delay the Government's plans to sell the shares.

In an interim direction at the end of July, the tribunal asked that partial asset sales be delayed until it released a more detailed report at the end of September.

But the Government asked the tribunal to report back a month earlier.

The tribunal said last Monday that it is most unusual and inappropriate for the Crown to interfere but that, given the national importance of what it is dealing with, it will release an abbreviated report on 24 August, and its full report the following month.

Mr Key says that will help ease what is still a tight timetable. He denies the Crown's actions have compromised the process.