By Dylan Moran
The Maori Council is taking its battle for water rights to the High Court today.
Last month the council won the right for a hearing to be held on Maori rights to water. The ruling forced the Government to put on hold its plans to remove Mighty River Power as a state-owned enterprise, a step which would have paved the way for its partial sale.
Maori Council spokeswoman Rahui Katene says the legal action is an attempt to send a clear message to the Government.
“They cannot go ahead and ignore all the issues to do with water, carve off bits here and there, and just give away, sell off, any of the assets which could go in a settlement,” she told Firstline this morning.
Two Waikato hapu affected by the potential sale - the Waikato Rivers and Dams Claim Trust and the Pouakani Claims Trust - are also part of the hearing, which is set down for at least three days before Justice Jillian Mallon in the High Court at Wellington.
“We wouldn’t go to court if we weren’t confident… having been forced into court we’re confident we’ve got a good case,” says Ms Katene.
In an interim report the Waitangi Tribunal requested the Government halt privatisation while it changes the electricity company constitutions to allow Maori input into how they are run.
The tribunal says Maori do not "own water" but can claim "residual property rights" which must be properly acknowledged for the Government to meet its obligations under the Treaty of Waitangi.
Ms Katene says she wants the sale of Mighty River Power and other state-owned assets to be put on hold until a settlement can be reached – and this needs to happen face to face, not in court.
“It’s a pity, because we could save a lot of money and a lot of time if we could sit down and talk,” she says.
3 News / NZN