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Maori Council expects Crown to fight ‘all the way’ on water rights

BUSINESSDESK: The Maori Council is expecting a tough fight through the courts with the government after Prime Minister John Key ended talks with Maori over how the Mighty River Power sale could help address claims to rights in freshwater resources.

Felix Geiringer, a barrister representing the Maori Council, says the issue is "very likely to go to court" after the government announced it will push on with the sell-down of Mighty River, striking the company from the State-owned Enterprises Act and setting a target of a sale of up to 49% in the first half of 2013.

"Whether it starts in the High Court or the Court of Appeal is neither here nor there," Mr Geiringer says. "I imagine the government will go all the way."

Council members are attending meetings tomorrow and through this week, with the council "hoping to have a decision in principle in a day or two and a firm decision by the end of the week" on whether to mount a legal challenge.

Speaking at the prime minister's post-Cabinet press conference, Finance Minister Bill English made it clear the timing of the Crown statement today was intended to flush out likely Maori Council and any other legal action "in the next week".

The Cabinet meeting scheduled for Tuesday next week will agree to remove MRP from the State-Owned Enterprises Act in preparation for sale, an action requiring an order-in-council signed by the governor-general, also scheduled for next Tuesday afternoon.

"Someone wanting to prevent the sale should take a step when they see the Crown takes a step towards sale," Mr English says. "The order-in-council is a pretty clear signal that the Crown is taking this first, substantive step. If there's going to be court action, it's better to get on with it and get it sorted out."

He declined to speculate on whether the government would legislate to allow the partial privatisations to proceed, should the expected court action succeed in establishing Maori ownership of water. However, that was judged unlikely.

Investors say leaving Maori grievances outstanding could see the share price in an initial public offering marked down because it would be harder to quantify Treaty of Waitangi risks.

Mr Key says his Cabinet today shelved the contentious "shares-plus" proposal that could contribute to the settlement of claims to waterways through shares in state-owned power companies, and will not entertain any further talks on the issue as such a scheme could create conflicts of interest between iwi.

All three power companies slated for partial sale have extensive hydro-electric power generation assets.

The government argues it can address Maori claims by other means but won't cede public ownership of the waterways. Tainui tribal authority official Parekawhia McLean resigned from Mighty River's board last week.

"If the water rights issue isn't sorted out prior to the offer, the market will probably put a large discount on that or require lower pricing on those assets," says Douglas Lau, portfolio manager at AMP Capital Investors (NZ), which has $16 billion under management in local funds.

Mr Key urges New Zealanders to register to buy shares in the SOE and suggested there would be strong international interest because of the worldwide appetite for better returns than are available through historically low global interest rates.

Comments and questions

"Mr Key urges New Zealanders to register to buy shares"
Not a chance sunshine until I get absolute unmitigated proof positive the shares arent going to be bumbled around some apartheid like tribal carve up.

The Maori council's fight will not only be against the Govt but all New Zealanders. This could be the straw that breaks the gravy trains back.

The selling of the asset is against all New Zealanders, what's wrong with you people.

Look at all your dislikes, what's wrong with you?

To the Maori Council....Greed, pure and simple, greed.

If you own an asset and that asset causes damage, pay up! Yeah Right.

To the Lawyers, you are just riding on the Waitangi Legal Aid gravy train, again Greed.

'If you own an asset and that asset causes damage, pay up! Yeah Right'. What a idiotic argument. What do you think insurance is for? Anyway, that's not what the Maori Council is saying.

What are they saying Mr Native -- tell your people to get their nose out of the Kirima trough.

Make sure the Maori Council pay their own legal fees, not the taxpayer.

I am Maori, I pay tax. I don't won't my tax to be used by the Crown to pay its legal fees.

Then don't waste everyone's time and money in idiotic law suits.

Here is the problem you see, Maori have always followed due process. Maori have relied on the law to protect their interests. Unfortunately parliament is a popularity contest where ignorant hicks can vote in ignorant hicks who can over turn the decisions of the court. Or, ignorant hicks who were voted in by ignorant hicks can simply pass laws over riding the rights of Maori.

People in glass houses shouldnt throw stones Mt Native -- the Chinese were here before your forefathers -- you are lucky to have got what you have so far-- now its pay back time.

Yes I am familiar with these claims. I challenge you to find one University scholar who supports your argument. I suppose you believe Elvis is still alive and living on the North Shore.

We gathered that you are maori Mr Native -- well I am kirima and dont mind my taxes being used to fund the government legal fees hopefully on the basis maori gets stuffed on this issue

One question Wiki. Why do you use 'kirima', a Maori term, to describe yourself yet you obviously dislike Maori.

We are all only stewards of the land at best anyway. The world has been around for Billions of years, will likely be around for Billions of years more… and our individual lives might extend to 100 years or so if we’re lucky.

So is all this attempted divisive, over-inflated sense of entitlement fuelled by perceived grievances of over 170 years or so is not progressing NZ Inc forward, nor is it even a blip on the Earth’s timeline… but it does help occupy some time I guess…

The Maori culled off the Maoriori – through bitter, violent tribal wars eroding and eliminating their culture, beliefs and heritage… so using the same standards Maori are trying to espouse today – if anything, water belongs to Maoriri before it belongs to Maori …and since the Maoriri were all killed off by Maori…

There’s even evidence that the Spanish were here in NZ before the Maori – so are the Spanish more entitled to “own” Aotearoa?

The Spanish Helmet, the European skull, the origin of Kumara, Pohutukawas in Spain that are 500 years old, and anything else suggesting that NZ was discovered long before the British or even the Maori, then you would probably love the novel by Greg Scowen 'The Spanish Helmet'. Or, “To the ends of the earth” by Maxwell Hill. It suggests that NZ was discovered some 1500 years before Maori…

So all this hot air, petulant stomping of feet in entitlement rage is just that.

We are all only transitory anyway so let’s all work together for a better NZ – not a divided one where some perceived entitlement is warranted based on perceived grievances of over 170 years or so ago.

Or this...

I say bring it on ! who did the Maoris buy the water from to own it now ?

A good Tui billboard add , "Lets all work together " yea right !

The share plus option was a poor angle to take by the Maori, I suspect they didn’t just want to seek annual royalties from the state assets without doing anything in return. They wanted to appear as valued contributors to these resources. However you simply can’t have Maori elders making board decisions on something they, quite frankly, know nothing about.

That being said though, Maori do have ancestral and historical claims to NZ resources ( NZ rivers are resources) albeit from a mismanaged “rights in perpetuity” point of view. Annual royalties would be the way to go and I’m wondering if they should take this to the World Court or the United Nations? If not, they should at least get many and varied opinions/ input from universities and experts around the world as this will, no doubt, turn into a class action case setting new legal and moral precedents.

Many people have ancestral and historical claims. That is why there is a statute of limitations because it is impossible either to assess or satisfy them once many years or in this case generations have passed.

The Treaty must be annulled and all this nonsense terminated.

Yes the treaty should be annulled, but replaced with something that will address and go some way toward establishing a path of unity for Maori in New Zealand. I also think the elders and the Marae based system should be given less emphasis and instead replace it with a modern Maori/Pakeha equivalent but focused on children not “the elders”.( Maybe having highly resourced childcare/whanau developments with internet cafes and educational facilities for mothers/youth etc... instead of cold barren halls with ancient aggressive carvings on the walls.)

The traditional Maori elder based culture is holding them back and causing friction between the past and the future. There is a vast segment of unproductive urbanised Maori in NZ that would benefit from a Maori culture shift along with the government’s gravy train refocusing on the young Maori instead of giving millions to Iwi elders.

I don’t think, as you do, that it’s impossible to fix although it will take a lot of effort and time.

Thank you Pm for having the guts to stand up to the Maori Council and their mob.

The Maori Council I believe only speak for a minority, those that want everything for nothing and I would suggest contribute very little to society.

They are a joke and John Key has taken the right stance.

Us hard working kiwis and citizens of NZ made up of all different races I believe have had a gutsful of the whingeing greedy minority maori groups and this case if taken to court will be the straw that broke the camels back.

I say bring it on Maori Council, the sooner the better, then when you have been humiliated maybe then you will wake up and do something positive for your people.

Look to Ngai Tahu if you are light on ideas.

Well said Max , i agree with your comments and thoughts . We always here from the loud mouths that are pushing the self interest , like Morgan , Haraweras , Jackson etc etc

Who is funding the court action? I assume Maori are using their 'payout' monies to fund such action? If not why not?

Anon #7, just how do you see Maori having "ancestral and historical claims". You have been 'hoodwinked' just as a large number of NZrs have. You are OK with 'annual royalties' ???.....wake up ...what are the annual royalties for??? Oh I get it, because Maori are 'the precious people'??? I suggest you do some research and dig a little deeper to gain some sort of reality check on the forever-shifting Maori take on history.

Why are we taliking about these claims now? Claims beyond October 2008 would not be recognised...that is written into law.....end of story!!

We are treating Maori like whinging, whining kids that want an icecream and will not stop the whinging until they get what they want.....A definite and forceful NO is all it will take...Do you hear that John Key??!! ..and John, you should have a chat to John Ansell may be inspired to start leading the country with all citizens best interests at heart.

' I suggest you do some research and dig a little deeper to gain some sort of reality check on the forever-shifting Maori take on history'. Could you please point me in the direction of this research? I can point you in the direction of material that posits a contrary view. By the way, and I suggest you do some research yourself here, there are historical claims for past breaches, and contemporary claims for contemporary breaches. You see grundle the crown has a history of dishonesty, just because it has settled historical claims doesn't mean it will stop breaching the treaty. In fact history tells us it will keep doing so. Hard for the likes of yourself to fathom all this I know.

Native you talk a lot of rubbish-- what a waste of space.

As I said to you before, front up with some evidence, or at least an argument.

You don't have to dig too far; Eddie Durry "Maori have been here for thousands of years.." (Q&A Sept 2012) a good example of adhoc history 'facts' as portrayed by 'academics' Need I say more?

The law says (quite simply) Any 'new' claim made after October 2008 will not be we are talking of 'contemporary claims'!!!! Cointemporary claims are really good because these will ensure the greivance industry / gravy train rolls on indefinitely.

Get a life and start living in the present...

How many hip operations would the $170million just given to Tuhoe (who did not sign the Treaty) cover?? How many other serious health issues would $170million deal with? The greivance industry is nothing more than greed.

How many full and final payouts have been made to Ng Tahu (5); Ngati Porou (3) and so the list goes on.

As a fourth generation Kiwi I owe you nothing and the next generation owes you nothing..get over it. My family came here on a ship...your family came here in a canoe...big my friend are an imigrant also.

Native; you talk about the Crown breaching the Treaty..Hello. Your arguments are based on a blatant breach of the treaty....All citizens will be equal and have equal rights!! What makes you think you and your like are any more entitled to water than I am?? Don't talk about historical rights they mean nothing in 2012....and by the way water is my 'life blood also'

Native's argument is flawed any how. Maori have consistently breached the treaty. The clause "Maori must obey the laws of the land". Crimes against non-Maori must be re-payed in today's dollars. Where is our money, Native?