16 Sep 2012

Key says partial asset sales legally sound

9:59 pm on 16 September 2012

Prime Minister John Key has repeated his confidence that the Government's programme to partially sell some state-owned assets is legally sound.

The Government this month delayed the sale of up to 49% of shares in the Mighty River Power until next year, after an interim report from the Waitangi Tribunal found that Maori have proprietary rights over water.

Mr Key on Sunday invoked the Treaty of Waitangi as he defended the plans.

He told TVNZ's Q+A programme the Crown undertook in 1840 to protect certain Maori property interests such as land, forestry and fisheries.

"What we also I think then said was ... let's though make sure all New Zealanders enjoy the same rights of being in New Zealand, the same capacity to access those rights."

As a result, he says, everyone must have equal access to water, wind, sun, and resources such as oil and gas.

However, former Tainui leader, Tukuroirangi Morgan, who now speaks on behalf of King Tuheitia, says Mr Key is quoting from the English language version of the Treaty.

He says the Maori version gives Maori authority over all taonga, or treasures, and does not restrict this specifically to lands, forests or fisheries.

The partial sale plan was challenged by a national hui called by King Tuheitia on Turangawaewae Marae in Ngaruawahia on Thursday.

The hui agreed to select a panel of Maori to negotiate with the Crown on the issue of proprietary water rights.