A consultation paper seeking Maori opinions about legislative changes around the Government's partial state asset sale programme has been released.
Maori Party co-leaders Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples yesterday said they would consider pulling out of the support arrangement with National if a Treaty of Waitangi clause was not extended to new legislation that will cover partial state asset sales.
The clause is section nine of the State Owned Enterprises Act, which requires the Crown not to act in a manner inconsistent with the principles of the treaty.
The consultation paper, released this afternoon, proposes three options for dealing with the Crown's Treaty obligations. They include keeping section nine in the legislation, including a more specific Treaty clause to describe how the Crown would meet its obligations, or having no general Treaty clause.
The Government will being holding a number of hui around the country over the next three weeks to discuss the paper, and a decision would be made after that consultation period.
Finance Minister Bill English said the Government needed to fulfil the standards courts had set for consultation, so was going into the process with an open mind.
"We're going into this exercise with good faith, and I think that's demonstrated by the fact the consultation document sets out the issues quite clearly. We're fronting up to the issues openly,'' he said.
However, Mr English said the Government still maintained the position that Treaty obligations could not fall on private investors.
Dr Sharples yesterday said it was important to retain the wording of section nine because it was all-encompassing, and covered water and other natural resources which Maori were negotiating over with the Government.
"Unless the treaty clause is kept in there to protect and keep that interest there, then we are going to be up the lake without a paddle.''
If the clause was removed or changed to not apply generally, then it would not give Maori the protection they needed, he said.
Mrs Turia said the Maori Party believed there was value in being in Government, but it would not remain there "at all costs''.
"If they remove section nine there will be no reason for them to consult with Maori over these issues so they will actually be denying that the treaty exists and we are not prepared to accept that. We have to be vigilant and if it comes down to the wire, the Maori Party will have to consider its position with the Government.''
Prime Minister John Key this morning told media the situation was not an indication that the National and Maori Party relationship was breaking up.
"This is a consultation process, it starts today. Like all negotiations and discussions there'll be an end point to it but I'd be surprised if that end point was one that ends in tears."