Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Audrey Young: John Key shouldn't relax just yet

John Key's Government has faced several obstacles to its asset sales plan. Photo / Hawke's Bay Today
John Key's Government has faced several obstacles to its asset sales plan. Photo / Hawke's Bay Today

The Government's decision to delay the partial float of Mighty River Power in order to consult iwi affected with waters used by the power company sounds sensible enough.

And the politics of rejecting outright the special treatment Maori shareholders might have had in the Waitangi Tribunal's activist solution of ''shares plus'' will suit National very well.

But the Government's actions are based very much on self-interest. It has calculated that its chances of being stopped by a court challenge will be less if it actually acts like a Treaty Partner and consults iwi by iwi, river by river, SOE by SOE.

It has had its legal advice from Crown Law double-checked by two QCs. Were it a treaty partner in from the heart and not a paper partner by judicial decree, it should not have needed legal advice to practise what it preached to consult affected partners.

The fact it thought it could get away with it, is telling.

The Maori Council's actions in disrupting the Government's flagship policy of SOE part-sales is a victory, even if it ends up being a short-term one.

But ultimately the Government has washed its hands of the Maori Council's approach. The Government has said there will be no pan-Maori settlement. And it hard to envisage any legal grounds upon which a High Court could force the Government's hand against the alternative iwi by iwi approach.

The challenge for the Crown will be to show it has conducted genuine consultation. How will it respond if the iwi it consults over Mighty River Power - Key says there will be eight - joins forces and propose something more than the co-governance arrangements that Tainui and others have over the Waikato - perhaps a "co-governance plus" proposal.

The delay means there could be a citizens initiated referendum held before the float, now scheduled for between March to June next year.

At his post-cabinet press conference, John Key made it sound like delay was the sensible course to follow. He has quite a knack of looking relaxed. There is a lot more water to go through this dam before he should feel relaxed.

- NZ Herald

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Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor, a job she has held since 2003. She is responsible for the Herald’s Press Gallery team. She first joined the New Zealand Herald in 1988 as a sub-editor after the closure of its tabloid rival, the Auckland Sun. She switched to reporting in 1991 as social welfare and housing reporter. She joined the Herald’s Press Gallery office in 1994. She has previously worked as a journalism tutor at Manukau Technical Institute, as member of the Newspapers in Education unit at Wellington Newspapers and as a teacher in Wellington. She was a union nominee on the Press Council for six years.

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