SOE shares part of Maori Party 'budget'

By Audrey Young, Yvonne Tahana

The Maori Party says shares in State Owned Enterprises and joint ventures between SOEs and iwi could be part of Treaty of Waitangi settlements between the Crown and tribes.

Co-leader Pita Sharples suggested yesterday that Tainui, which is pursuing a claim for the Waikato River, could get part of the state-owned generator Mighty River Power.

He was speaking at a press conference to announce some of the party's policies for an alternative Budget which it intends to unveil next Tuesday.

Among other measures it supports are a minimum quantum for each settlement, and it suggests $20 million.

It also wants to "buy out" relativity clauses in the Tainui and Ngai Tahu settlements, saying that other iwi saw them as giving privilege to the two iwi that settled with the Crown first.

The clauses are related to the controversial $1 billion "fiscal envelope" National established when it began the settlements process in the 1990s.

Labour did not officially adopt the fiscal cap policy, although crown negotiations are conducted with relativities in mind.

Former Treaty Negotiations Minister Margaret Wilson dropped the relativity clauses.

Both Tainui and Ngai Tahu reached settlements under National of cash and property worth $170 million and, being 17 per cent of $1 billion, the relativity clauses will see them receive 17 per cent of the total amount of crown settlements that go over $1 billion.

The Office of Treaty Settlements told the Herald that settlements so far had amounted to $790 million.

By 2011, it is estimated that further settlements totalling $360 million will have been reached.

By that time, under the relativity clauses, Tainui and Ngai Tahu will be due for further payouts of $25.5 million each, being 17 per cent of the $150 million over the $1 billion cap.

If a total of $2 billion were spent, both of them would get a further $170 million.

The Maori Party could not put a figure on what might be an acceptable buy-out sum but such a concept is unlikely to find favour with Tainui or Ngai Tahu.

The Maori Party also wants an independent authority established to see that settlements are fair.

At the moment, said Waiariki MP Te Ururoa Flavell, the Crown was not only "the thief," but the judge and jury as well.

Asked about involving SOEs in Treaty settlements, a spokesman for Acting SOE Minister Michael Cullen said last night: "We won't be entertaining that."

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