19 Oct 2012

Govt rejects bullying claim over iwi share offer

7:54 am on 19 October 2012

Finance Minister Bill English has dismissed claims the Government is bullying iwi into poor quality Treaty settlements

The Government on Wednesday said it would set aside shares in state-owned energy companies for about 65 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 12 months put up Genesis Energy and Meridian Energy for partial sale.

Iwi will be able to choose to receive asset shares as a form of credit on their final treaty settlement.

The Green Party says some iwi are in a vulnerable negotiating position and will feel pressured to accept the commercial deal.

Mana Party leader Hone Harawira told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report programme the offer is a divide and rule tactic and a second rate deal. He said the offer is to cash-poor iwi which are desperate for anything, and his advice to them is to be very careful.

However Mr English said the offer is the result of an agreement between the Government and groups of iwi.

"It doesn't mean they'll all pick it up, but they'll be able to get part of their settlement paid a bit earlier ... and use that money to buy shares."

He said the bullying claims underestimate iwi who support the idea.

Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson says similar deals have been done in the past and the shares offer would not change the total amount of settlements.

Mr Harawira says iwi are pursuing water rights and the issue will almost certainly go to court, and if iwi win, any share deal would be compromised.

But Maori 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.