Lawyer accuses Crown of lacking in good faith

9:31 pm on 12 July 2012

A treaty lawyer at the Waitangi Tribunal examining water rights has launched a blistering attack on the Crown accusing it of being disrespectful, misleading and lacking in good faith.

The tribunal is holding an urgent hearing as the Government prepares to sell up to 49% in four state-owned energy companies, including power companies that have hydro schemes.

The Maori Council has filed a claim to the tribunal that seeks recognition of water rights and a recommendation to freeze Crown share sales in the companies.

Lawyer Kathy Ertel told the hearing she is embarrassed and disgusted by the Crown's behaviour and accused the Government of wilful blindness.

Outside the hearing she told Te Manu Korihi that Prime Minister John Key's actions were below standards, because it is improper for him to make comments while a judicial body is considering evidence.

Mr Key said on Monday that the Government could choose to ignore the outcome of the hearing because the tribunal's rulings are not binding on the Government.

Ms Ertel said the comments show the Government does not want to engage with Maori over the issue of water ownership.

Customers will pay the price - economist

An expert witness for the Maori Council's claim on water rights says it is inevitable that the price of electricity will go up if hydro generators have to pay to use freshwater in their turbines.

Ganesh Nana, the chief economist at the business think-tank BERL, has been cross-examined at the Waitangi Tribunal, which is being asked to postpone the sale of shares in state-owned companies including Mighty River Power.

Dr Nana told the tribunal on Thursday the Crown needs to ensure the uncertainty about access to water is minimised if the sale is to be a success and customers would receive bigger bills if companies are charged to use water.

Dr Nana said at present, water being used to generate power is free to the producer and the point of putting any price on water is to ensure the right decisions are made on how water is used.