Supreme Court dismisses Maori water rights claim
The Supreme Court has rejected the Maori Council’s attempt for a full investigation into the Government’s decision on water ownership rights.
Chief Justice Sian Elias has ruled the High Court was correct in dismissing the Council’s bid for a judicial review into the matter.
The Maori Council wanted to review how the Government had reached its conclusion that Maori had no ownership claims to the water and steam used by four state-owned energy companies to generate electricity.
The four - Mighty River Power, Solid Energy, Meridian Energy and Genesis Energy - are planned for sale.
Its bid was rejected last year by the High Court so the Council appealed to the Supreme Court.
But today, the Supreme Court ruled the Government’s consultation process with Maori was adequate and despite Maori interests and rights in particular waters, no one owns water and steam.
“The Supreme Court has concluded that the partial privatisation of Mighty River Power will not impair to a material extent the Crown’s ability to remedy any Treaty breach in respect of Maori interests in water,” the judgement says.
However, it did offer some consolation to the Maori Council.
“While the appellants have failed as to the ultimate result, they nonetheless succeeded on an important point of principle, namely that the Crown was bound to comply with the principles of the Treaty before deciding to sell the shares.”
Govt moves ahead with asset sales agenda
The decision allows the Government to progress with its partial asset sales programme and a renewed timetable will be presented to Cabinet next week.
Finance Minister Bill English says he welcomes the decision which now allows 49 percent of Mighty River Power to be floated between April and June.
“We are pleased to be getting on with what we were elected to do,” he says.
However, this morning, Mr English told crowds at an Auckland Chamber of Commerce luncheon that if the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the Maori Council, asset sales would be shelved.
“I guess if you can't sell them you have got to keep them. That's our plan B,” he said.