20 Jul 2012

Justice Ministry accused of interfering in water case

8:31 am on 20 July 2012

The Maori Council has accused the Ministry of Justice of being racist and trying to sabotage its water and geothermal rights case being heard by the Waitangi Tribunal.

The council lodged the claim under urgency as a result of the Government's proposal to sell up to 49% of state-owned shares in four power enterprises, including Mighty River Power.

On Thursday morning the inquiry, which was due to start with the council delivering its closing submission, was overshadowed by the council's barrister, Felix Geiringer, complaining about his pay rate.

Outside the hearing, council co-chair Maanu Paul said the Ministry of Justice's Legal Service broke the agreement to pay Mr Geiringer the full lawyer's hourly rate.

He says it wants Mr Geiringer to accept the same wages as a junior lawyer, while Crown lawyers receive $400 an hour.

Mr Paul says he believes the ministry is trying to undermine the council's case.

My work faultless - lawyer

Mr Geiringer says he seriously considered not showing up to deliver his closing submissions.

Legal Services says the Maori Council's lawyers have filed incomplete and inaccurate paperwork, which has delayed the payment of some invoices.

Mr Geiringer disagrees, saying all the paperwork he has been asked to submit has been faultless.

He says he has met all the requirements for the paperwork, which have involved hundreds of pages of material and hours of work.

He says he has an agreement with Legal Services that he is to be paid $149 an hour and he is working with them to resolve the situation.