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Govt encourages assets legal action

Tuesday 23 Oct 2012 12:09 p.m.

The Government may hold off on the next step in its asset sales process on Tuesday after intentionally sparking court action from the Maori Council.

The council opened its case for a judicial review of the Government's asset sales process in the High Court at Wellington on Tuesday morning.

It wants to stop cabinet making an Order in Council on Tuesday to move Mighty River Power out of the State-Owned Enterprises Act - the first step in the process of opening up the company to partial privatisation next year.

After hearing brief arguments from both sides, Justice Ronald Young adjourned the hearing until 1pm on Tuesday, pending the outcome of the cabinet meeting.

He set down a substantive hearing for November 26 on the wider issues of the Maori Council's application, with the case expected to take several days.

On Tuesday morning, Prime Minister John Key admitted he had announced plans to make the Order in Council to prompt the Maori Council to take its case to court.

"In reality, the Order in Council was the process that was used to ensure that if there was going to be court action taken against the government, that was drawn out into the open," Mr Key told media on Tuesday morning.

"We will do that at some point, in terms of passing the Order in Council, but whether we need to do it today or not, we'll take some advice on that."

He said the order "may well go through" on Tuesday afternoon, but it was too early to say before cabinet met and received legal advice.

Mr Key believes it is likely the Maori Council will take its case to the Court of Appeal and even the Supreme Court.

He is hopeful the courts will "have a mind to" the government's plan to make an initial public offering of Mighty River Power shares between March and June next year, and "put a bit of urgency" around the hearings.

NZN

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