Order-in-council aproving SOE asset sales will not be signed today, Crown lawyer David Goddard QC, has told Wellington High Court.
In a statement just released deputy prime minister Bill English says theGovernment welcomed the High Court’s decision to allocate an urgent hearing in the week starting 26 November in relation to a judicial review of the Government’s decision to proceed with its share offer programme.
On this basis, Finance Minister Bill English says Cabinet has decided today to delay the Order in Council relating to Mighty River Power to accommodate the upcoming hearing.
“This doesn’t affect the timing of the Mighty River Power float, which remains a priority for the Government.
“Now that proceedings are filed and a fixture on the substantive issue has been allocated, the Government has decided to defer the making of that Order in Council until after the High Court hearing,” Mr English says.
More details soon.
Wellington High Court has set a tentative date to hear the Maori Council's case against the government's partial asset sales.
Justice Ronald Young has set aside four days from November 26 for the substantive hearing to oppose next year's scheduled sell down of Mighty River Power.
Crown lawyer David Goddard QC, council lawyer Felix Geiringer and Justice Young all acknowledged the urgency of the matter, given today's cabinet meeting to seek an order-in-council to transfer Mighty River Power from the State Owned Enterprises Act to the Public Finance (Mixed Ownership Model) Amendment Act 2012.
However, Justice Young said imposing any sort of interim relief against the sale is the least attractive option "by a large margin".
The case will resume just after lunch today, following the cabinet's meeting to decide whether or not to approve the order-in-council.
If it is approved it will then be sent to the executive council at 4pm to be officially signed off.
Justice Young said he could not understand why the order-in-council needed to happen this week.
He said if the order was made, it would irretrievably affect the litigation and would have the consequence of limiting the Maori Council's rights.
One option raised by Mr Goddard, if the order-in-council was passed today, was to push out the start date of the order from October 26.
"But that's a decision for cabinet ... certainly not for me."
He said November's substantive hearing would be mostly based on legal, rather than factual, arguments.
Justice Young warned the outcome of this morning's hearing is dependent on cabinet's decision.
It is likely November's hearing would be before two judges.
Last week, finance minister Bill English said today's order-in-council would be the government’s first substantive step towards the sale.
He also challenged the Maori Council to launch their legal bid before the order-in-council, or not at all.
The Maori Council is taking the Crown to court this morning in a last-minute bid to thwart the partial sale of Mighty River Power.
At Wellington High Court, lawyers for the Maori Council will be seeking judicial review of the government’s plans to sell down its stake in Mighty River Power and two other energy companies, Meridian Energy and Genesis Power.
The council also wants an urgent hearing to stop the government from removing Mighty River Power from the State-owned Enterprise Act by passing of an order-in-council this afternoon.
Mighty River Power is expected to be transferred to the jurisdiction of the Public Finance (Mixed Ownership Model) Amendment Act 2012 when Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae signs an order-in-council at 3pm, which means it could be partially privatised.
Powerful iwi boss Mark Solomon has refused to back Maori Council legal action over partial asset sales.
"All it does is give the lawyers the new Mercedes every year," he said on TV One's Q+A programme on Sunday.
Read more about Mark Solomon’s interview on Q&A here.