Maori Party, PM to meet over water rights

By Kate Shuttleworth, Audrey Young

Maori co-leader Dr Pita Sharples. Photo / Warren Buckland
Maori co-leader Dr Pita Sharples. Photo / Warren Buckland

The Government won't be ready to respond to the Waitangi Tribunal report on Maori water rights for a week, Prime Minister John Key said this morning before meeting the Maori Party on the matter at Parliament.

Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples met Mr Key, Finance Minister Bill English and Attorney-General Chris Finlayson in the Beehive to discuss the Waitangi Tribunal's water report on Friday.

Afterwards Dr Sharples said he did not get any sense of whether the Government was looking at a delay in the part sale of Mighty River Power.

The report said the Government would breach the Treaty the Waitangi if it did not delay the partial privatisation of Mighty River Power to work out a mechanism to recognise Maori rights is particular bodies of water.

Mr Key is heading to Rarotonga on Wednesday for the Pacific Islands Forum and Mr English is leaving today for Moscow.

Dr Sharples said he would be in touch daily with Mr Finlayson and possibly Mr Key and Mr English during the week as well.

The Government is getting advice from the Crown Law Office, the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Treasury over the next week.

The Maori Party will meet the Government again before it decides on its response. In the Maori Party will meet with Maori.

"We have a responsibility to meet with our people - that's claimants on the one hand, Maori Council on the other hand, and the Iwi Leaders Group and perhaps some of the long-term iwi that have a focus on their rivers."

Asked if he wanted to see the sale delayed, Dr Sharples said: "It's not the delay or the hurry. It's about getting through the issue. This is a major issue for all of New Zealand and so we've got to resolve it.

"We took pains to point out to New Zealand how important this was and that we take it very seriously and the fact that there is a claim there of a treaty breach."

Dr Sharples said the party had not yet determined whether to hold a hui to bring together the Maori Council claimants and the iwi leaders or separately.

Co-leader Tariana Turia is unwell and did not attend the meeting but Waiariki MP Te Ururoa Flavell was there.

Maori Party MP Te Ururoa Flavell has confirmed the party will meet with the Prime Minister today over Maori rights and interests in fresh water and a decision from the Waitangi Tribunal that the partial sale of Mighty River Power be put on hold.

"We will have a clearer picture about where we want to go after today," he told Radio New Zealand.

He said the Government had a responsibility to reflect on the findings and to keep a dialogue going.

When asked if the Maori Party will leave the Government if it proceeds with partial asset sales Mr Flavell said: "We probably would have gotten the boot a long time ago because there have been a number of governments who have not necessarily listened to the recommendations of the Waitangi Tribunal over many years," he told Radio New Zealand.

He said the Maori Party would not necessarily leave Government due to its stance on proceeding with a partial sale of Mighty River Power.

"The important thing for us is to make sure the lines of communication stay open - in the past they have generally been closed down because Maori members, despite whatever they felt about things, have effectively been shut down from their own party politics."

He said iwi had to negotiate on behalf of themselves and the Maori Party will attempt to facilitate a discussion with the Government.

"We have a good relationship with the National Government - which allows us to keep that dialogue going," he told Radio New Zealand.

He said discussions could take longer than the Government expects and the Waitangi Tribunal had worked hard to fast-track both reports on its findings.

"At least now we have the key recommendatory body of a the New Zealand Government, which is a judicial body as well, that's given us some clear lines about their view about the issue," said said on Radio New Zealand this morning.

"Not only on the issues of proprietary rights - but on a way forward."

- NZ Herald and APNZ

- NZ Herald

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