21 Nov 2011

Maori Party against asset sales, but open to negotiation

8:13 pm on 21 November 2011

The Maori Party says it is opposed to the partial sale of state assets, but believes iwi would make good owners if they go ahead.

If re-elected on 26 November, the National Party says it will proceed with the partial privatisation of state-owned energy companies Genesis Energy, Meridian Energy, Mighty River Power and Solid Energy and reduce the Crown's shareholding in Air New Zealand. It plans to sell up to 49% of the energy companies.

Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples says his party's preference is that the assets should not be sold, but there is room for negotiation and it could support the policy if iwi groups would be able to have priority access to the shares.

Dr Sharples told Radio New Zealand's Checkpoint programme on Monday if it is the only option available, iwi would make good owners of shares because they would keep ownership of the assets in New Zealand's hands.

He says he will push the case for a preferential deal for iwi, but Maori ownership of sales would not be a bottom line during coalition talks after the election.

On Sunday, Mr Key was asked if he would rule out a sales programme giving Maori preferential access and replied that New Zealanders have to be treated equally and fairly.

Mr Key says iwi leaders want access to buy some shares - but so do many others such as KiwiSaver schemes.

Dr Sharples says the Maori Party would not throw away gains it could make in other areas but will discuss the asset sales policy, and how it could benefit Maori, directly with Mr Key.