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English asks for quick court action to challenge asset sales

The government has challenged iwi groups dissatisfied with the partial asset sales plan to file any legal challenge “sooner rather than later”.

Finance minister Bill English says the Cabinet’s decision to remove Mighty River Power from the State Owned Enterprises Act is the government’s first substantive step towards the sale.

An order-in-council is being prepared to be considered by the Cabinet next Tuesday.

Prime minister John Key has not ruled out the possibility of legal challenges and Mr English is confident any such challenge would neither hurt the value of Mighty River Power nor delay the float  timetable of between March and June next year.

He says the government’s advice has been that people planning to challenge the sale need to do so when the Crown takes a step towards sales and that this week’s decision should send a clear signal the government is serious about the sales.

“If there’s going to be court action, we may as well get on with it and sort it out. We’re signalling we intend to proceed and anyone who wants the opportunity will have it within the next week to take court action.”

He says anyone who decides to take court action closer to the float date would be deemed by the court to be a nuisance rather than trying to solve the issues.

“If they take this action in the next week there’s no ambiguity about it and if claimants want a fair hearing, they should take action sooner rather than later.”

More by Blair Cunningham

Comments and questions

Well done Mr English, you have given any objector a week to start court proceedings. That is very fair, and under no circumstances should any "johnny come lately" be tolerated.

Mr English is having a laugh, trying to jump start people into taking legal action against the government.
Maoris have successfully made claims against the state about issues dating back more than 100 years. There's nothing to stop them continuing this way in the future.
But if the assets are sold, it will be the shareholders who bear the brunt of any future actions over water rights, not the tax payer.

Aren't the words "quick" and "court action" an oxymoron? There is potential for huge delays here for the Government's planned asset sales. Mr English may want, but . . .