The government's legal position is "rock solid" on the sale of shares in Mighty River Power, Prime Minister John Key says.
The government late last week gave the Waitangi Tribunal a very public nudge, calling on it to deliver its report on the first tranche of shares to be sold as part of the flagship "mixed ownership model" policy by August 24.
To do so later would push the sale into next year due to reporting requirements, Mr Key said at his post-cabinet press conference yesterday.
The tribunal yesterday afternoon delivered a very grudging acquiescence, saying it would produce an interim report by the August 24 deadline but would still produce a full report in September.
The tribunal also criticised the government's public pressure as being "inappropriate".
Mr Key batted that aside, saying the government has acted in "tremendous good faith" throughout the process and that some of the claims about the impact of the sale of shares in the company are wrong.
"This is an argument not about whether Maori rights and interests exist but on whether the change in ownership ... alters the ability to have those rights and interests acknowledged.
"We don't think anything is changed because the government owns 51% of the company and not 100%.
"We have … acted in good faith to recognise the rights of interests of Maori… Nothing in the change in ownership will alter those."
The government has acted in "tremendous good faith … we're very confident about our legal position, that we are following the right process."
The government had been aware from the outset that a legal challenge to the sale of the shares, once the tribunal has ruled on the matter, is likely, Mr Key says, but he beleives the legal position is "rock solid".
Some sort of deal on shares is unlikely, he says.
Maori rights and interests are currently "recorded and acknowledged river by river, iwi by iwi, and for the most part that has not included shares, in the past".
"That does not seem to me to be a logical way to do that, although hypothetically its always possible, I suppose."
Mr Key and other National ministers are meeting Maori Party ministers and iwi leaders tonight to thrash out the issues, although Mr Key says the Maori Party has been opposed to the share float from the start and this is not likely to change.
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