Member log in

Count to 10 and calm down, judge tells Felix Geiringer

Hot-under-the-collar Maori Council lawyer Felix Geiringer suffered a sustained caning from Justice Ron Young in the latest round of the Mighty River Power sale challenge.

Mr Geiringer ran foul of Justice Young several times in Wellington High Court as he struggled to get traction for his accusation that Prime Minister John Key told the public no-one could own water, while secretly knowing it was possible.

“The prime minister says under common law no one owns water. Are you saying that’s wrong?” Justice Young asked.

Mr Geiringer said anyone could own water. “You can own it in a bottle, you can own it in a pool.”

But Justice Young dismissed this view as pedantic and reminded Mr Geiringer they had to be sensible “it’s about flowing water”.

After a heated discussion about it, Justice Young cautioned Mr Geiringer not to get too frustrated.

“Just stop a moment and take a breath. Count to 10. Be conscious of where you are and be cool.”

The Maori Council and Poukina Claims Trust are challenging next year’s planned partial asset sales.

Mighty River Power is set to be the first state owned enterprise to be partially sold off.

Mr Geiringer claims the government’s move to transfer Mighty River Power from the State Owned Enterprises Act to the Public Finance (Mixed Ownership Model) Amendment Act 2012 would cause the government to lose control.

“It will cause prejudice to the Crown to consider claims in the future… The Crown could use its control now to ameliorate the prejudice to Maori through the mixed ownership model.”

He admitted the Maori council accepted the mixed ownership model legislation would be passed and would ultimately lead to a loss of control. But he says before the government loses control, it needs to take decisive action.

But Justice Young said Mighty River Power did not assert ownership of the water and it was not likely to change with the partial sale.

“Mighty River Power just has a right to use the water. It’s not even like an irrigation company, which actually uses the water. In Mighty River Power’s case, the water is still in the river at the end of the use.”

But Mr Geiringer disagreed. He said Mighty River Power “very much” used the water.

“It’s destructive. It completely destroys the river. It’s inaccurate to say the water doesn’t get used up just because it doesn’t come out of the other end.”

Mr Geiringer said under the new mixed ownership model the dams could be sold without the Crown even knowing it.

He also talked up the benefits preferential shares – a scheme which would see the Crown hold extra shares in Mighty River Power for the rights and interests of the hapu.

But Justice Young failed to see the benefit, and questioned how buying shares in any company recognised interests.

More by Blair Cunningham

Comments and questions

Another rider of the grievance industry gravy train meets resistance.

A good couple of days in the Wellington High Court.

Maori will oppose asset sales unless it at a heavily discounted price to themeselves or for free. When will the rest of NZ have the balls to elect a government that will put an end to this nonsense?

Well, it certainly won't be the current opposition - you starting up a new party ?

New Zealanders have had numerous occasions, like every three years, to elect a government that would put an end to this 'entitlement grievance industry nonsense', but they haven't; prefering to elect a welfare-orientated wealth distribution government every few years. Thus, making the situation worse.
Unfortunately, our media do not help by not enlightening the 'plebs' as to the fallacy of such policies which help perpetuate the sense of entitlement grievances.
Teaching socialisim in our schools and revised history, on the few occcasions that history is actually in the curriculum, only adds to the problem. Ill informed/misinformed people will not make wise electoral decisions. Listen to the nonsense from the mouths of some of our young people, particularly some of the juveniles in the present opposition line-up.

Justice Young has hit the nail on the head. Water just happens to be the method of capturing the power of gravity. Nothing in the water is used up justs the energy assocated with its height above sea level.Is gravity a taonga?

' gravity a taonga?' - careful, you'll give them ideas!

Dubee, thank you for pointing out this significant observation. What will the Waitangi gravy train think of next? Perhaps they will propose a set of curtains be erected so that all of Aotearoa is shaded from their sun and we the untanned should pay a koha for access to sunlight.

Is that fellow really a lawyer? Reading some of his comments makes me think he took a wrong turn on the way to the circus.

Sounds like Felix is pushing it uphill.
Like I said yesterday, all power to Justice Young.

Sounds like the Maori Council case doesn't hold water.

I'd be careful about riling Felix lest he next makes claim on the air and turns off the supply valve in a hissy fit. This cat can be quite snarky.

Actually Felix, Mr Key is right. No-one in NZ owns the water because it comes either from the Pacific or across the Tasman from Australia, falls from the sky and then drains into a ditch that becomes a river. As Dubdee states, the velocity of the water is what produces the power. And how on earth can you stand up in court and say the water is destroyed? Surely you're not serious, Felix?

It's great that finally we have a judge who talks some sense.

The water is used to generate electricity. The power companies need a mimimum flow to do this. So a certain flow rate must be maintained. In a drought scenario this causes issues. The power companies need guaranteed minimum flows. Hence, their use of the waste can prevent other users drawing. So it's not destroyed, but its use to others is reduced.

So far the government is winning this round, but the real test will be in the Supreme Court, where there is a tradition of judicial activism. It is quite likely that they will not be interested in the common and commercial law principles that seem to be the centre of the present judge's comments. Nevertheless, it is difficult to see that taking money for a taonga, if that is indeed what water is, will restore its sacred character.

Could you explain which cases before the NZ Supreme Court involved the "judicial activism" you speak of?

(Or is "judicial activism" just a phrase you've borrowed from the Yanks to describe decisions you don't like?)

Two words: Sian Elias. Maybe three if we add in "Dame".

Felix Geiringer is a great lawyer. It was good to see Justice Young took his own advice and took a deep breath.

Clearly he isn't. The nonsense he talked about destroying the water is clear evidence of that. Amazing how you can twist an instruction from the bench!

"No one owns the water" seems to mean that farmers and power companies get to use and pollute at will. Let Maori have it or let the Chinese et al stuff it...I know which one I choose.

What has the Chinese got to do with this nonsense?

Why not bring in your country's real polluters into the case - how about dairy farmers and the pulp and paper mills? Gold miners?

And of course, the Maoris know all about protecting the environment intelligently, right? Oh, they killed off the moa, and introduced rats into NZ? News to them obviously being such trusted guardians and conversationalists.

Amazing how much peasant stock potato quality brain racist mentality still reside in the skulls of some New Zealanders.

Why don't we save a lot of time and money and just hand the whole country to the Maoris. I'm tired of the drip-feed process.
Let's also have a ex-freezing worker as king while we are at it.

The issue is not about ownership - it is about rights to the water and whether these will be compromised by the sale.

At last a common sense view. It has always been about use and not about ownership. The RMA governs use regardless of who owns the electricity generators, or any other water users.

I love the bit that you can own the water in a pool - but if that was so why do you have to keep topping up your pool? Well, the water keeps escaping as it's is a free spirit.

Yes, I guess you can lock it up in a bottle and put it in a safe or a cupboard. But that is a case of not having your cake and eating it as it is not much use being in a bottle for long and then you drink it and then it escapes again. Water is a free spirit and cannot easily be put in chains.

To keep it at all you have to have a catchment - a container - and, yes, you can own the container. But without the container you cannot hold it for long.

It is there for us all to use - a shared resource. It needs to be allocated and so we have rules about a right to use it, but not about the right to own.

Try and own it and it will escape. It always finds a way sooner or later.

If this dispute about water ownership / useage was for the benefit of ALL NZer's then I could support it - but it is yet another attempt to enrich a few Maoris ( who are semi-European anyway).

If this is an example of skilled advocacy then the claimants' lawyers, including Ms Cull, do a lot to enhance the public's view that getting paid to argue is the aim and nothing more, and so the gravy train continues.

Nothing is happening here to enhance the reputation of skilled practitioners and I suspect these ones will have a life-long task to overcome this dent.

Who would hire them now?

Judges and lawyers would love this case to go on forever-and-a-day; it enables them all to take a drink, shouted by the taxpayer.

Well done Justice Young!! Salute!

Felix Geiringer is the chief gravy train lawyer who needs to be cut down a peg or two. Sure glad we're not paying his ridiculous legal bill this time round.

The point has been made from time to time. The iwi interests are not opposed to the sale of water, even if this were possible. They say that they should own the water. They have absolutely no objection to commercialisation of a natural asset, they just want to be able to realise the commercial benefits for themselves.
We should all be afraid of this.

Mr Geiringer will have an argument if New Zealand is silly enough to actually create a constitution which has the Treaty as a cornerstone, which is now being discussed in the constitutional review.

Shut the floodgates.

Very happy to see a judge with logic and common sense. These two attributes are not always evident in our justice system these days.

The Maori gravy train 'driver' is a little confused regards the nature of water. Every one of us breaths air. We then expel other gases. That in my mind is using air/oxygen, plus all the inerts gases which make up air.

Hydro generation uses the kinetic energy of the water to spin turbines. The water expelled is the very same water that entered. It has not been changed in any way. How is that using water?

Mr Geiringer needs to take a look at the Waikato River, ponder the number of hydro schemes on it and the consider his statement again. The hydro generators on the Waikato do not use the water. The kinetic energy of the water is merely harnessed.

I might add that Maori had no idea of kinetic energy and certainly Mr Geiringer seems to be confused by this very simple concept.

Maori counsel may want to look at the quality of its legal representation. This fellow just proves the strategy, "we'll have a crack at it and see what happens..." No factual data, no scientific data, all hokey pokey stuff.

What a crock!

"The water expelled is the very same water that entered. It has not been changed in any way." Not true. The water discharged from hydro schemes is changed in a number of ways, as a function of the increase in temperate. As the temperature rises, the available oxygen decreases, impacting wildlife. The wildlife operate in particular tempartures zones, independence of the oxygen issue, sudden changes in temps, like those found at a discharge points, are more likely to cause stress and possibly death. It effects the types of fish that can live in those waters, and their migration patterns.

I do believe you are confused with water discharge from thermal power stations. I don't believe the temperature of water being directed into pentstocks, through turbines and out into the river below is going to be significantly raised to affect wildlife. You need to think a little more before you come on with your wonderful display of scientific knowledge.

If your argument were true, then the Waikato, with the number of hydro generators, would be devoid of most of the fish life.

Let us not be side-tracked by issues which don't exist. The real issue is really about a minority using primitive concepts (mana), how that can be linked to water is beyond me..."and if we can't get our mana back then we want compensation..."

Everything is about compensation ... the almighty dollar and mana quite obviously has a dollar value.