By 3 News online staff / NZN
New Zealand First is suggesting all New Zealanders pretend to be Maori to get special privileges under the law.
The party wants the Government to define who is and isn't Maori before offering deals to iwi over water rights, after delaying the asset sales programme.
Winston Peters says anybody could be Maori under the law.
"[Prime Minister] John Key could write to those New Zealanders he considers ineligible to let them know they've missed out," says Mr Peters.
Ministers are heading into five weeks of discussions with iwi over water rights and asset sales after announcing on Monday the Mighty River Power share float would be delayed until March next year.
The Government hasn't agreed to any of the conditions set out in a Waitangi Tribunal report but says it wants "clarity and certainty" before the power company is partially privatised.
The Maori Council, which sought the tribunal's ruling, has welcomed the delay but says it is keeping its legal action option open.
It would have sought a High Court injunction if the government had decided to go ahead with its original sale deadline of November.
The Government is confident it will win a court case and that having five weeks of discussion will strengthen its hand.
Mr Key says the Government has had legal advice and "shares plus" won't work, but he's prepared to talk about it to find out whether iwi can "come up with anything new".
"The Government's current view is that this idea should not be progressed," he said. "But we need clarity and certainty, and taking some time to talk about it is the prudent thing to do."
Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples says the government has shown it respects the need for iwi to be consulted.
"We're very pleased because we advocated for that."
Mana Party leader Hone Harawira says it's "about bloody time" Prime Minister John Key realised how serious the opposition is to the sales.
"It’s a far cry from the disparaging comments he made about the claim, the Council and the Tribunal a couple of months back," says Mr Harawira.
"Government’s decision to delay the sale of state assets until at least March 2013 is a back-down of massive proportions and a victory for all New Zealanders, many of whom have been working furiously to get together the numbers needed to force a referendum to stop asset sales."
Mr Harawira says the delay "shows that the Treaty is the only constitutional document we can rely on to safeguard our assets and our future".
"This is not the time for hasty decisions or fast deals. Now is the time for patience and for participation, and I urge all iwi leaders to lead the engagement of their people in what is likely to be the biggest decision they will ever make."This morning former ACT Party leader Rodney Hide rubbished the Waitangi Tribunal's view.
"I read most carefully the tribunal report and I found it to be utter bollocks," he told Firstline this morning.
"There’s no argument there of ownership, it’s just that the tribunal asserts it. They say that Maori own water because they sang songs about a river, they identified spirits… that’s nonsense.
"The treaty is silent on water. What the treaty says, and the tribunal observes this, is that Maori property rights will be upheld. They then create the fiction that Maori own water. Clearly they don’t," says Mr Hide.
"What the tribunal’s done is in a fairyland sort of happy-clappy kind of way, has tried to construct rights out into the year 2012. Clearly it’s bollocks."
NZN / 3 News