Crown asks tribunal to dismiss SOE sale claim

By Yvonne Tahana

The NZ Maori Council says sales of SOEs such as Mighty River Power would prejudice Maori claims to ownership and control of water. Photo / APN
The NZ Maori Council says sales of SOEs such as Mighty River Power would prejudice Maori claims to ownership and control of water. Photo / APN

The Crown wants the Waitangi Tribunal to dismiss an application to urgently hear a claim aimed at halting state-owned enterprise sales.

Two claims were laid by the New Zealand Maori Council's president and 10 others early last month.

They say sales of 49 per cent of Mighty River Power, Genesis Energy, Meridian Energy and Solid Energy, would prejudice Maori claims to ownership and control of water.

In a submission to the tribunal, Crown Law counsel Jason Gough said the claims failed to meet tribunal tests for urgency and nothing in the proposed sale of shares in energy-generating SOEs would prejudice aboriginal/customary rights or Treaty claims to water or geothermal resources.

An alternative route existed for Maori to ensure rights outside of litigation, Mr Gough said.

Prime Minister John Key had committed himself to working with the Iwi Leaders Group in 2009, and since then the Crown had worked closely with the group to frame policy development and develop drafts of advice to ministers. That work should continue.

"It is likely that a hearing process based on allegations of Treaty breach would not necessarily be productive, and may cut across the engagement and dialogue between Maori and the Crown."

Mr Gough also noted that the Crown still needed to engage Maori on the tribunal's report findings from the Wai 262 claim, which set out a framework for considering resource management issues relevant to the water.

A national water claim would lead to an inquiry "enormous in breadth and complexity" where all iwi and hapu views would need to be heard, Mr Gough said.

"Further, there is no evidence of iwi support for the representative claim.

"Given the significant Maori participation [in water reform process], the tribunal should be assured of widespread support for a national claim of this kind before diverting resources to what would be a substantial inquiry."

That position has some support from the Freshwater Iwi Leaders Group, members of which include Sir Tumu te Heuheu, Tuku Morgan, Mark Solomon, Toby Curtis and Brendon Puketapu from Ngati Tuwharetoa, Tainui, Ngai Tahu, Te Arawa and Whanganui respectively.

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a1 at 20 Sep 2014 05:37:08 Processing Time: 649ms