Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Walkout still on cards over asset sales

Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples. Photo / Natalie Slade
Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples. Photo / Natalie Slade

The Maori Party has claimed a partial victory after a government promise to include a Treaty clause for partial state asset sales - but will not quite abandon the possibility it will walk out until it sees the final clause.

After three weeks of consulting, the Government yesterday said it would include a Treaty of Waitangi clause in new legislation to cover companies in which minority stakes were sold to private investors.

The Maori Party warned it could walk out on the Government if Treaty rights were not properly recognised in the new legislation and said its preference was for section nine to be used or, if that was impossible, to include a new clause which carried equal weight and scope.

Yesterday Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples said it was heartening the Government had recognised the need for a Treaty clause, but the Maori Party would wait until it saw how much the final clause differed from section nine before it cast a verdict. He expected to see that next week.

Asked if the party would go through with a walkout if the final clause was weaker than section nine, he said, "If that is the case then it is the case and we have to rise to the occasion."

However, he said the situation showed the value of the Maori Party being part of the Government.

The Government has indicated it will not use the exact wording of section nine of the State Owned Enterprises Act, rather the clause would "reflect the concepts" of that section, which requires the Crown not to act in a manner inconsistent with the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.

Dr Sharples said his party would scrutinise the wording carefully. Section nine remained the preference and he was yet to see a satisfactory explanation for why it could not be used.

Finance Minister Bill English denied it was a backdown by the Government. Although officials had initially believed a Treaty clause might deter investors, he said he now believed it would give them certainty.

"As it turned out, when we've gone through the discussions it's become clear that if there was nothing in the legislation then investors won't know how the various Maori interests will be dealt with.

"It is important that it's clear the Treaty obligation belongs to the Crown. People who invest in those companies won't themselves, as investors, be obliged to pay attention to the Treaty of Waitangi."

- NZ Herald

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