Govt consultation on asset sales 'enough' to satisfy Maori concerns – Crown

Queen's Counsel David Goddard is to begin his argument in the Supreme Court today.

Queens’s Counsel David Goddard is adamant the government’s consultation on its planned partial asset sales is enough to placate Maori concerns.

Mr Goddard has promised to provide “plenty” of facts and figures to the Supreme Court today as the Maori Council’s bid to halt the plan continues.

Yesterday afternoon, Mr Goddard, who will begin his argument today, had enough time to clarify several points raised by Maori Council lawyer Colin Carruthers QC.

“The Crown has consulted extensively on this issue, including three formal rounds and a number of informal rounds.” 

He said that after careful consideration the government decision to the transfer of up to 49% of assets into the hands of private shareholders will not impair its ability to take necessary action to protect Maori interests.

“The government has concluded the toolbox will not be materially impaired.”

Justice Robert Chambers asked Mr Goddard what would become of payments of royalties once the state owned enterprises became mixed ownership models (MOM).

Mr Goddard said deputy prime minister Bill English and attorney-general Chris Finlayson had confirmed nothing would change.

“Both Mr English and the attorney-general have confirmed the Crown’s ability and willingness to take these steps will not be affected by the sale of shares.”

Yesterday, Mr Carruthers argued the transfer of shares will result in the impairment of the Crown's abilities. It would be unable to deal with river consent issues easily and would instead need to consult with the private shareholders.

“At present, the Crown can exert considerable control over the state-owned enterprise, but this control will significantly diminish once each SOE is turned into a MOM company.

"Giving Maori direct and meaningful involvement in the power-generating SOEs after privatisation will not be possible.”

After questioning Mr Carruthers, Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias floated the prospect of the Supreme Court limiting share sales to no more than 25% of the companies.

"A protective mechanism could be that the crown will only divest 25% until there is some resolution.”

bcunningham@nbr.co.nz

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