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Asset sales should halt for water deal with Maori – tribunal

BUSINESSDESK: The government should halt its privatisation policy while it changes the constitutions of its electricity companies to allow Maori input into how they are run, the Waitangi Tribunal says.

In its interim report on Maori claims to proprietary rights and interests in fresh water, the tribunal says Maori do not "own water" but can claim "residual property rights", which must be properly acknowledged for the government to meet its obligations under the Treaty of Waitangi.

The finding was released in a 275-page "pre-publication, interim" report to meet a government request for advice on urgent claims made to the tribunal by the Maori Council on fresh water rights earlier this year.

While the tribunal does not expect the government to reach a total solution to Maori water claims immediately, "it should be possible to agree an appropriate scheme for the three power generating companies up for partial privatisation" – MightyRiverPower, Meridian, and Genesis Energy.

The issue of shares to Maori interests should be part of the remedy for the loss of those rights but "shares on their own are not a remedy", the tribunal says.

"Shares in conjunction with shareholder agreements and revamped company constitutions could give Maori enhanced power in in the companies that control and use their taonga."

Government lawyers argued the opposite at the tribunal hearing, raising the prospect of the government choosing to ignore that part of the recommendations once it has "carefully considered" the report, which State-Owned Enterprises Minister Tony Ryall says will now occur.

No further comment is likely until that consideration is complete, although the timetable for the sale of up to 49% of MRP before Christmas will demand decisions on the proposed share float within the next three or four weeks, at the latest.

MRP announces its annual profit on Tuesday, in the process paving the way for the government to issue a prospectus for the sale of a minority share of the state-owned electricity generator and retailer.

However, the tribunal says that once shares in the state-owned enterprises are sold, "the Crown will not be able to provide a meaningful form of rights recognition for Maori in respect of its water bodies after it sells the shares to private investors".

While other forms of commercial compensation might exist, "it cannot be stated with certainty that any other commercial rights recognition will actually come to pass".

"Since the opportunity exists here and now, the tribunal concludes that the sale should be delayed while an accommodation is reached with Maori."

The tribunal's findings rest on its rejection of a key element of the Crown's argument on the water rights issue.

That was that there was no established "nexus" between the share float and the potential to remedy the loss of an established right under the Treaty.

While there are other commercial remedies available to recognise Maori interests in water, the privatisation process removes the shares themselves as a source of such compensation.

"There is a nexus between the asset (shares enhanced by shareholders' agreements and revamped constitutions) and Maori rights in the water bodies used by the power-generating companies," the tribunal says in a letter to Prime Minister John Key at the start of its report.

"As a result, the very asset being transferred by the Crown, and which is sought by Maori in partial remedy for this claim, will in practical terms be put beyond the Crown's ability to recover or provide after the sale," the tribunal says

"We consider that the sale must be delayed while an accommodation is reached with Maori."

Mr Key indicated a month ago that the government may hold back a proportion of the MRP shares to be offered for sale as part of a loyalty bonus scheme for small-scale kiwi shareholders.

While there has been no public discussion of the proposal, it is possible shares could be held back in similar fashion to make a deal with Maori which could allow the MRP sale to go ahead.


Comments and questions

I wonder if Mr Key will have the spine to ignore this nonsense from a tribunal most kiwis believe should cease exist.

Bin the Treaty and the Tribunal. The "partnership" is a fraud as are the rorts committed in its name. The Tribunal is a lobby group, not an independent arbitrator, and has lost the respect and confidence of the public.

If Maori have "residual property rights" let them argue them in the same courts as all other New Zealanders.

As for having Maori input into how all our power utilities are run, could anything more clearly indicate the Tribunal's ludicrous bias and lack of judgment?

The more outrageous the claim the better - about time the Waitangi Tribunal overplayed its hand

As Eddie Durie said "Its not about the money" - Yeah Right!

Haka, anyone?

Giving the Fox the keys to the coup again ..... it about time we became one nation with one rule for all

As for the timing - last thing on Friday afternoon: Tribunal's best effort to diminish public reaction to their rort.

An excellent result! Hopefully this will now torpedo this government's attempt to steal what we all own and sell it back to us (and to benefir their chums in the financial services industry of course).
National will have to find better ways to balance the books without selling the peoples birthright. Raise the superan age, cut WFF and get rid of interest free student loans - THAT is the way forward.

So your birthright was a power utility? Bizarre.

Only bizarre to those unable to cogitate. The SOE's were established and developed with generations of taxpayers money. Not government cash (there is no such thing) but taxpayers cash - without this cash from taxpayers there would be no SOEs. So birthright is a pretty good description.

Government debt was developed without generations of taxpayers money but plenty of handouts for their voters. That is equally your birthright though I don't see you rushing to own it.

Why do we have to put up with these moronic arguments about management of public assets and liabilities? Either the power utilities are sold at a price that exceeds their value to the Government or not. The rest is drivel.

You mean when the Government comes in, takes your land and builds a power station or three on it that's OK. Love how it wouldn't be be OK if it happened to you or your family but because it's Maori's it's justified.

Simple minds find justification in anything I suppose, do some research and actually learn some of the history before putting you clearly racist hats on.

What made it your land?

Without those power stations how would you Maoris be able to sit around and watch TV all day on the benefit you clown.
And we've read the history and it quite clearly states that you're a lazy immigrant group that winges about everything ,gives nothing back,feels that its everyone else fault but your own while sponging off the state.

Agreed the whole process is a farce and needs to be ditched. Govt now needs to say bugger off. Lets put money into education and health not a feeding trough for a minority elite.

If Maori beleive they have rights to water and should have a say in how the power companies are run, why has this not been brought up years ago when the power companies were establsihed and water rights issued under the RMA. This action by the maori council amounts to nothing but a grab at the assets for free. Key will loose a great deal of Mana is he bows to the tribunal. Its bad enought that tax payers have to pay legal aid to support Donna Hall and her ilk to make the claim. Lets not then have to pay again by giving away the assets.

Treaty settlements had been ongoing for decades over these lands and was never resolved because they found any excuse under the sun to do so. Please research these areas and what has happened in the past and present and then maybe make a slightly more informed decision.

I can guarantee most of the people commenting here have never been to these areas but luckily nothing stops anyone from being armchair judge and juries.

Manu Paul doesn't even have a mandate at the Maori Council. The guy is just another hanger on living on the goodwill of the tax payer. If earlier maori claims to water have been righlty nullified, then i guess we can rest assured that this latest effort will come to the same end.
I know all about confiscation mate. My Grandparents lost everything to the Nazis in WW2. But I'm not sitting around crying about it. I'm getting on and contributing to my chosen country like all New Zealanders should.

Yes you Maoris were the second or third group to New Zealand just like the rest of us..but of course everyone owes you.Its our fault you don't feel like working,its our fault your preferance for junk food prohibits you from losing weight and it's our fault you prefer imprisonment rather than abiding by the law.
Interesting how it's only Maori injustice your concerned about and absolutely nobody else's.

They would have been the third group after the chinese and moriori

Perhaps you should read the report, because it points out that Maori have been seeking these rights for a long time. The report cites the Lake Omapere court case of 1929 and the resultant court order of 1956 that "gave [Maori] ownership of the water and the sole right to sell water or to lease it for hydroelectricity".

There is a simple solution if Maori beleive they have the right to charge a lease over the water. If the Lessor is not being paid by the lessee, then go and repossess the asset. Take the water away, and put it somewhere else.

You can't charge a lease over a natural resource. It belongs to the country, for the purpose of furthering the interests of all the people of the nation. Not the minority.

And all that's been done with Lake Omapere since 1956 has been to watch it become the most polluted in the country?

The first Chief Justice of NZ was right to call this Treaty a "nullity". It's not worth the paper it's written on. Europeans would have taken the country by force - conquest - if the Maoris had resisted colonization. Superior civilizations have always displaced inferior ones - that has happened at all times and all places throughout history. Didn't the Maoris eat the Morioris who were here before them? It's ludicrous that we're now apologising and paying money for bringing them fire, the wheel, medicine, writing, technology, music, literature, science, underpants, KFC and all the other things that would never have happened unless we'd arrived. I'm sick of it. No wonder anyone with a brain is leaving here for Australia.

Hey whats stopping you going? I will even organise a whip around, I have no doubt we will have the cost of an Aussie grabaseat fare in no time at all. Be a good chap and take that Wilkinson with you as well, would you?

This is the guy who calls others racist.

Don't bother - when you show up to sit in it you'll find some Maori claiming it under the Treaty of Waitangi.

New Zealand for New Zealanders. No more handouts for greedy Maoris.
The Treaty says Maori must obey the law of the land. They have clearly breached this. The Waitangi Tribunal must be dissolved and all claims ended.

Well done!
Rights of Indigenous people have to be looked after. We just cannot leave the wrongs of the crown as 'past' and expect everyone to forget it and move ahead.

What wrongs? The Maoris were conquered. Get over it. After the Normans conquered England in 1066, we haven't had the Saxons claiming compensation for losing, which is exactly what is happening here. Someone just needs to say - NO! ENOUGH GREEDY GRASPING MAORIS! NO!

maoris - bunch of greedy savages

What an absolute load of Bulldust, please show me in black and white where all of this is in the treaty absolute dammed garbage!!!! I do hate the sales of something that we ALL own thought we should all revolt at that though darned Fraud!!!
You had better inform the USA that the Maori own MARS too, before they get too excited about what is being beamed back, look out for a rellie/cuzzie to pop his head out from behind a rock, although a well informed bro said they have already been there that is why there is nothing left?

Ohhhhh!!! how about we really rattle the cages, and privatise and sell off WINZ

The sale is off, you watch Key take this opportunity to flag it away, given the power companies earnings are down, the proles are grumpy and he might have to deal with Winnie in a year or two... good day today.

If there is any wrong, let's compensate them, less what they've taken - the costs of 100 years of welfare bludging and prison costs. That should leave them with a bottle of whiskey and a blanket. But knowing them, they'd just want to upsize it to a Big Mac Feast.

Won't all this achieve is raise the price of power? Isn't this clam racist because they have rights that no one else has? Look how nice they were treated, the indigenous people of America were killed. Doesn't it seem like NZ is being taken advantage of because we are nice? They are businessmen that are just looking for money. If its not about the money don't accept any money? But I'm sure they won't refuse!

I think this is a wrong judgement because of the following. The Crown have interests in water under two separate situations.

(1) Under their role of governing in New Zealand ceded to them in the ToW (first Article) the Government must provide a management process to govern the shared water resource and then ensure consequential practices to ensure water does not harm the communities e.g. flooding, and they must carry out research from which to continue to manage the resource to ensure it is fairly shared. Under this aspect they make no profit but do extract costs to pay for these management practices.

(2) as the owners of various Assets they must apply to their own water management practice for a right to use water (as does any other party who want to use that water whether that water use is for recreation or profit.)

Maori are completely within their rights to apply for rights to use this water. They gave away their rights to have a say in the management of the water under ToW but probably have automatic rights of water use granted under the water management process based on prior right, and in accordance with their "Treasures". However in terms of water only (.e. not other claims related to use of land, an SOE applying for a right to use water as a shared resource is an entirely separate an unrelated factor.

To seek to join these two aspects as the the tribunal is trying to do is in my opinion wrong as it attempts to join two separate articles in the treaty into one. They were separate Articles for good reason as they separated out the notion of Management i.e. government, from the notion of use or ownership.

You're falling into the trap of having to argue your way to a conclusion using the Treaty. Just chuck the Treaty out.

Correct. The Treaty was never a partnership and certainly isn't now. Maori think it is an ATM and have a bag full of stolen credit cards to use in it.

This is just outrageous.We need to stop this Maori land grabbing now.If the government wont we will.
We've had enough.Time to start deporting Maori troublemakers now ,who's with me.

Yep get rid of the treaty and put a constitution in place. One for all NZers.

Even David Lange said the treaty was not a good founding document.

New Zealand must now unite in its opposition to Maori claims giving this government a clear message we are not standing for any more Maori claims.We cannot and will not go on like this.John Key you have been told.

They've got radio spectrum
They've got the foreshore
They want water
Next will be Air (Wind farms springs to mind)
What will us poor white guys be left with?

Seems a far reaching decision ,by most of the participants,all unelected ,and against the process of a democratically elected Government.Whats the point of a General Election every three years.Oh i almost forgot.,
the unelected look like they are up to 95% of European Caucasion extraction.Wonder what their Caucasion ancestors would think, that when they gave birth the the claimants ,that in the future the well being of a small country like NZ would be held to ransom ,by outlandish claims.

IWI - I Want It. Nothing changes.

What is all this talk about 'indigenous people', Maoris are immigrants to this country like everyone else. One rule for all New Zealanders.

Lets see a new political party with this policy because none of the existing parties have the balls to do anything about it.

We will not be in breach of any international treaties of rights for indigenous peoples because all New Zealanders are immigrants, just some arrived before others. All fought wars over land, Maori even between themselves, only for Maori the losers became dinner.