The Prime Minister may have pledged not to attend any water rights hui following the asset sales delay, but his Finance Minister will be flying the flag.
Bill English will tomorrow attend the first hui in response to the Government’s commitment to engage with Iwi on the “shares plus” concept raised in the Waitangi Tribunal’s interim report.
On September 4, the government delayed the Mighty River Power IPO - scheduled for the end of that month - until around April next year. The delay followed a Waitangi Tribunal recommendation to halt the partial asset sales programme unti the water rights issue could be resolved. Prime Minister John Key said the delay would allow consultation over the "shares plus" concept, which would see Maori allocated shares with more governance rights than other shareholders. Mr Key said his government opposes shares plus, but wants to work the issue through.
Six hui will be held in the next 10 days with Iwi and hapu that have a specific connection to the freshwater and geothermal resources used by the state-owned power companies, Mighty River Power, Meridian and Genesis.
Subject to these consultations, and to market conditions, the government intends to sell up to 49 percent of each of the three companies, starting with Mighty River Power in the first half of next year.
“The government is confident that in law no-one owns water, and is also confident that proceeding with the share offerings will not compromise its ability to recognise those rights and interests that Maori do have in water,” Mr English says.
“The Waitangi Tribunal itself agreed that proceeding with the Initial Public Offerings would not prevent appropriate rights recognition, and that there would be many options for recognition and redress after the sale of shares.
“However, on one narrow point the Tribunal said the share offering would affect the Crown’s ability to recognise Maori rights, and that is the ‘shares plus’ concept by which the Tribunal suggested there be a special shareholding which would give some Maori shareholders rights above those of other shareholders.
“The government has already said that such a shareholding would be unattractive, unnecessary and unworkable but now that the matter has been raised we will talk to affected Iwi about it.
“Over the next 10 days I will listen carefully to Iwi, talk through the issues with them and explain the government’s stance. We are also inviting those Iwi directly affected by these issues to write to us by Friday October 5.”
Details of the hui are
- Tuesday 18 September, Tainui waka iwi including Waikato, Hauraki, Ngati Raukawa and Ngati Koroki Kahukura, in Hamilton
Wednesday 19 September, Ngati Tuwharetoa and Te Arawa, in Taupo
- Wednesday 19 September, Whanganui Iwi, in Whanganui
Wednesday 26 September, Tainui waka iwi Ngati Maniapoto, in Te Kuiti
- Thursday 27 September Waikaremoana Iwi including Ngai Tuhoe, Ngati Ruapani and Ngati Kahungunu ki te Wairoa, in Tuai
Thursday 27 September, Ngai Tahu, in Christchurch