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Asset sales back on track

Wednesday 12 Dec 2012 5:28a.m.

Asset sales back on track

The Government says its asset sales programme is on track after a High Court judge ruled against the Maori Council's bid to block the partial privatisation of Mighty River Power.

The council is going to appeal Justice Ronald Young's ruling and ministers, confident of success, want it heard as quickly as possible.

Finance Minister Bill English says the decision confirms the Government can sell 49 percent of the shares in the hydro power station, and in three other state-owned energy companies.

State-Owned Enterprises Minister Tony Ryall says he wants the appeal to be heard "as soon as possible" and the Government is committed to a share float in the first half of next year.

Prime Minister John Key has previously said it might be possible to bypass the Court of Appeal and go straight to the Supreme Court.

The Maori Council challenged the Government's decision to sell the shares without first ensuring there was a mechanism to recognise Maori water rights.

But Parliament has already passed a law allowing the companies to be partially privatised, and Justice Young on Tuesday ruled a decision by Parliament can't be reviewed by the courts.

Maori Council lawyer Donna Hall said work had already begun on an appeal.

"There's no surprises in the ruling - it's exactly what the judge indicated in the hearing," she told NZ Newswire.

Justice Young said the decisions weren't inconsistent with the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi, and adequate consultation had taken place.

He also said the evidence suggested that the partial sale of Mighty River Power wouldn't affect Maori water rights.

NAIL IN THE COFFIN?

Labour says the Government's mission to sell state-owned assets will cost it the next election. State-owned enterprises spokesperson Clayton Cosgrove believes it's a nail in National's coffin.

"You've got 80 percent-plus opinion poll after opinion poll, folks saying they don't want our assets sold. You've got 300,000-plus signatures on a petition calling for a referendum. If the Government has any honour in this, in the face of public opinion they'll say… people deserve a say."

Mr Cosgrove says the delays will cost taxpayers millions in legal fees.

NZN / RadioLIVE / 3 News

 
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