Asset sales saga likely to leap frog to Supreme Court

Prime minister John Key has not ruled out the possibility of advancing any Maori Council appeal straight to the Supreme Court.

Justice Ron Young is expected to release his decision on last week’s legal challenge to the partial asset sales programme before Christmas.

This would give the government a tight timeline of just two months to complete any potential appeal arising from that decision before the planned selldown of Mighty River Power.

The government wants to sell shares in MRP between March and June next year.

Mr Key says Attorney-General Chris Finlayson will look at whether the case should be "leap-frogged" to the Supreme Court.

Bypassing the Court of Appeal would depend on Justice Young's findings, particularly if it left important issues of law or public interest open for higher deliberation.

Observers of the recent High Court challenge taken by Maori interests to block the asset sale are confident Justice Young will deliver a clear and unequivocal judgment.

“We’ll end up getting legal advice and advice in general on what will happen. The applicants might have a view if they say they want to go straight to the Supreme Court. Chris Finlayson says it’s technically possible to leap frog," Mr Key says.

A joint Justice Ministry/Law Commission discussion document published in December 2009 says appeals from the High Court can leap-frog the Court of Appeal and go directly to the Supreme Court in some circumstances.

In his final comments last week, Justice Young indicated an appeal was likely whatever way he found.

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For goodness sake, isn't it time for the government to grow some balls and tell Maori that they do not own water, air waves or wind, and that whatever happens in the court or the Waitangi Tribunal they will legislate to ensure this.

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