Waitangi Tribunal to challenge asset sales
Thu, 10 May 2012 6:23p.m.
By Tova O’Brien
The Government faces yet another spanner in the works over its planned asset sales; the Waitangi Tribunal will hold an urgent hearing over a Maori claim to ownership of water.
The hearing may convince the Tribunal to call for the asset sell-off to be put on hold, but the Government is determined it will partially sell four New Zealand energy companies.
Each company relies on water to operate though, and water - the Maori Council says - belongs to Maori.
“Water, land and those physical assets that indigenous people had before the settlers or colonists came along belong to those people,” says Maori Council spokesman Maanu Paul.
The Waitangi Tribunal thinks the Council has a point and an urgent hearing has been set down for mid-July.
After the hearing the Tribunal plans to address the Council's request for "an interim recommendation that the Crown delay its sale of shares in Mighty River."
Essentially, they are asking for the first of the asset sales to be stalled, but Prime Minister John Key says even with the Tribunal on side, it does not mean a certain stop to the sales.
“It’s important to understand the Tribunal’s rulings are not binding on the Crown,” says Prime Minister John Key.
“Previous governments have ignored their rulings in the past and this one might as well.”
But the Maori Party says if the Tribunal wants the sale stalled, it should be.
“Why would we both to have a Tribunal if we’re not bound to listen to it – it’s just a waste of money then, isn’t it?” says Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia.
But opposition to the sales is growing; last week thousands marched on Parliament, yesterday North Island iwi Ngati Tuwharetoa threatened legal action and today a petition for a Citizens Initiated Referendum was launched with Labour's leader starting the day collecting signatures.
“It’s like shooting fish in a barrel,” says Labour leader David Shearer.
But whether it is High Court threats, popular petitions, protests or even the Tribunal calling for a delay - the Government will let nothing stand between it and the sale of those assets.
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