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

Key on Waitangi claim: 'No one owns water'

Prime Minister John Key (right) hongis with Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Prime Minister John Key (right) hongis with Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Prime Minister John Key insists that Government stability is not at risk over the Waitangi clause in the legislation allowing the partial sale of four state-owned assets.

He told reporters at Parliament this morning believed that in three years time the Maori Party would still be a confidence and supply support partner of the National-led Government.

The Maori Party has threatened to pull its support if the Waitangi clause is not satisfactorily dealt with.

Mr Key said he was comfortable with the Maori Party opposition to the sales, which had been well signalled.

"We've got 61 votes. They are rock solid from what I can see."

Labour leader David Shearer told reporters at Parliament this morning it was much less stable Government than before given National could be losing the Maori Party.

"The Government has put its economic credibility on the line with the sale of these assets. it's a shambles. The whole thing has come off the rails." Mr Shearer said.

"This Government is really struggling now within a month of taking office."

He said the Government had infuriated "all New Zealanders" with its assets sale policy now and it was unstable.

The New Zealand Maori Council is expected to file a claim today at the Waitangi Tribunal seeking to halt the sale of the SOEs until claims concerning the ownership of water have been heard.

Mr Key said he had received no advice that the process would slow down the sales.

There was no question of the Government calling off the sale of minority shares in the SOEs because National had campaigned strongly on it.

"We think it is the right thing in terms of the debt levels New Zealand would have, the investment opportunities and the performance of those companies."

Asked who owned water, he said that in his view "no one owns water."

"It's like air. No one owns air.

People have allocation rights in relation to the use of water."

Mr Shearer, however, would not say who he thought owned water, simply saying "the Maori Council has the right to do whatever it wants to do."

"The courts will hear that and we'll obviously be governed by how the courts see it."

- NZ Herald

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