Asset sales back to court today

The government’s planned partial asset sales debate heads back to the Wellington High Court today for a hearing on next year’s sale of Mighty River Power.

The scheduled sale between March and June is opposed by the Maori Council and Poukani Claims Trust.

Late last month, cabinet was to transfer Mighty River Power from the State Owned Enterprises Act to the Public Finance (Mixed Ownership Model) Amendment Act 2012 in order to smooth the way for the sale. However, the transfer was put on hold after the Maori Council’s legal action.

During last month’s urgent hearing, Crown Queen's counsel David Goddar told Justice Ronald Young despite the cabinet’s backdown, officials would still be working towards the planned sale of Mighty River Power shares.

Mr Goddard was given until last Saturday to provide submissions in response to the Maori Council’s submissions.

Reasons why the Maori Council wants today's substantive hearing to go ahead include:

  • Illegality – sale without protective mechanism is unlawful. The Crown has failed to implement mechanisms that will protect claimed Maori interest in freshwater and geothermal resources.
  • Illegality – defective consultation makes sales unlawful. Given shortcomings in the Crown’s consultation process, it would be inconsistent with the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi for the crown to proceed with the partial privatisation.
  • Unreasonableness – rights and interests unknown. The Crown has failed to adequately ascertain the scope of Maori rights and interests in freshwater and geothermal resources.

bcunningham@nbr.co.nz

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