17 Jul 2012

PM dismisses Maori Council tribunal claim

8:01 pm on 17 July 2012

Prime Minister John Key has dismissed the Maori Council's water rights claim at the Waitangi Tribunal as opportunistic.

Mr Key has already upset the council by saying the Government won't be bound by the tribunal's findings as it proceeds with its plan to partially privatise Mighty River Power.

Mr Key says he rejects the Maori Council's view that iwi have ownership rights over water.

By contrast, he says, most iwi leaders support the Government's approach.

Finance Minister Bill English says the Maori Council itself has no claim on any lake, river, spring or creek.

He says the Government has worked closely with iwi leaders on the matter.

Labour leader David Shearer says the whole sales process is a mess and the Government should not ignore the Waitangi Tribunal.

But Mr Key is adamant there's nothing stopping the Government selling shares in its energy companies.

And he remains reasonably confident that even a legal challenge by Maori won't delay the sale.