3 Aug 2012

Waitangi Tribunal yet to say whether it will speed up report

5:31 pm on 3 August 2012

The Waitangi Tribunal has yet to say whether it will speed up the delivery of its report into water rights, as requested by the Government.

The tribunal had asked that the Government's partial asset sales programme be delayed until it releases a more detailed report on the Maori Council's claim at the end of September.

On Thursday the Government asked it to report back by 24 August so it can get on with floating shares in Mighty River Power.

Prime Minister John Key said he expected to know on Friday whether the Tribunal would bring forward its report, but the Tribunal's office has not yet told interested parties of its decision.

Treaty of Waitangi law expert Mai Chen says the Government is right to ask the Waitangi Tribunal to report back on water rights sooner, but it should act as though the issue will end up in court.

Finance Minister Bill English says Government ministers need to make decisions about the Mighty River Power share offer in early September.

Ms Chen told Morning Report the Government should act as though the issue will end up in court.

The tribunal is only able to make recommendations, and tries to deal with issues not only in the legal environment but in the realistic political environment.

"At the end of the day, they can't make the tribunal do that," she says.

"The difficulty is that you can have it fast, but it may not be right or good".

"Even if the tribunal is able to come to the party ... the Crown would have to give it adequate consideration".

The Government has to consider what the courts will say if the issue ends up there, says Ms Chen. Judgements in cases such as the tender of radio frequencies have ruled that it was not reasonable for the Government to proceed until the tribunal had been given an adequate opportunity to provide advice.

The Crown needed a system to safeguard Maori claims under the treaty, and its officials should be looking at ideas such as putting aside share parcels.

Govt accused of bullying Tribunal

The Green Party says the Government is bullying the Waitangi Tribunal by asking it to provide its report into water rights a month early.