6 Feb 2012

PM defends asset sales plan to Maori

12:05 pm on 6 February 2012

The Prime Minister has used his Waitangi Day speech to reassure Maori that Treaty obligations will be included in new legislation paving the way for the partial sale of assets.

Iwi leaders and the Maori Party have raised concerns that Treaty obligations will be weakened or left out of the revised State-Owned Enterprises Act.

Mr Key attended official events marking Waitangi Day on Monday. At a breakfast, he told iwi leaders and dignitaries the Government is focused on increasing the performance of the economy.

He says partially selling four state-owned energy companies forms part of the way to make that happen.

The Prime Minister reassured iwi that new legislation set up to facilitate the sale will include a Treaty clause.

Mr Key says it could be a general clause, but the Government favours a specific one so that it is clear the clause applies only to the majority Crown shareholding.

On Sunday, the Mr Key said it is not practical for private sector shareholders to leave legislation governing state-owned enterprises the way it is and changes are necessary.

The head of New Zealand's largest iwi, Ngapuhi, says everyone who buys state asset shares should abide by the Treaty.

Sonny Tau says if changes are made, the new legislation should include treaty responsibilities for all shareholders.

Maori leaders will target government ministers to ensure that happens, he says.