Prime Minister John Key said today he did not think the claim Maori own water would make it to court but in theory the Government could legislate against a finding by a court that Maori do own water.

Maori Party co-leaders Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples met Mr Key last night and issued a joint statement saying the Government would not legislate over Maori rights and interests in water.

Mr Key made a distinction between Maori rights and interests in water and ownership.

When asked today if the Government had ever intended to legislate on rights and interests in water he said it hadn't.


"This Government has legislated for rights and interests in water - we're not about to then go and legislate over the top of that. It wouldn't be a constructive thing to do,'' he said.

When asked if it was possible the Government could legislate to say no one owns water, Mr Key said it could in theory but he hoped it wouldn't come to that.

"At the end of the day that's not the preferred option. The common law position as it's been established has been that no one owns water.''

Mr Key said he didn't think the question of whether Maori had proprietry rights to water would make it to court.

The meeting last night with Mrs Turia and Dr Sharples was originally to discuss comments by Mr Key which they said undermined the Waitangi Tribunal.

The tribunal is currently hearing the Maori Council's bid to halt the sale of Mighty River Power until Maori rights and interests in water are defined.

Mr Key said an apology was not discussed with the Maori Party.