The Government is battle-ready for any court-based challenge to its partial share float of the Mighty River Power company in the wake of the Waitangi Tribunal's call for a delay.
But it hopes it won't come to that.
Prime Minister John Key said the Government would consider the tribunal's report properly, having caused an outcry from his Maori Party partners when he said he could ignore it.
"I'm asking people to give us a week because we have both a legal and moral responsibility to go through that report," he said. "We will review the recommendations of the Waitangi Tribunal in good faith."
Mr Key implied the Government would not offer any pan-Maori settlement but preferred to deal with individual iwi on specific waterways.
He said the Government had a process that, until this point, had worked well over the past four years - "that is, river by river, waterway by waterway, iwi by iwi".
Mr Key also hinted that Treaty Negotiations Minister and Attorney-General Chris Finlayson would be playing a key role in formulating the Government's response. "At the heart of all of this is ultimately a Treaty settlement process," Mr Key said.
He would not comment on a suggestion the Government could announce a mechanism by which iwi could register interests in particular bodies of water and still go ahead with the sale.
Mr Key and senior ministers met Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples and Waiariki MP Te Ururoa Flavell yesterday to discuss the report. The Maori Party will spend the next week meeting various groups, including the Maori Council and iwi leaders. Dr Sharples also said he would be in daily contact with Mr Finlayson.
Mr Key heads to the Cook Islands tomorrow and Finance Minister Bill English to Moscow. Asked if he was ready for possible court action, Mr Key said the Maori Council had indicated it would take legal action if the Government pressed ahead with the sale.
"The Crown has had long-held views and well-established positions and if that was an option, of course we'd be ready to go to court."
* The Maori Council, joined by 10 hapu and iwi, went to the Waitangi Tribunal seeking a delay in the sale of up to 49 per cent of Mighty River Power, the first of three state-owned power companies the Government plans to partially float.
* The Waitangi Tribunal recommended a delay, saying the Government would be in breach of the Treaty of Waitangi unless it found a mechanism by which it could recognise Maori proprietary interests in particular bodies of water.By Audrey Young Email Audrey