23 Feb 2012

Treaty concepts to be included in new SOE bill

9:18 pm on 23 February 2012

Finance Minister Bill English says the Government intends to include a provision in new legislation reflecting the concepts of the Treaty provisions in the existing State-Owned Enterprises Act.

However, it will not cover the 49% of private shareholders - a major bone of contention for one of National's support partners, the Maori Party.

The Government has received about 200 written submissions on its consultation about Treaty of Waitangi provisions in new legislation paving the way for partial sales of state assets.

It has been consulting with Maori about whether to transfer Section 9 of the State-Owned Enterprises Act to the new legislation. This general clause requires the Crown to act in a manner consistent with the principles of the Treaty.

The Maori Party is concerned that private shareholders would not be bound by the Treaty. However, Mr English says that would still be the case in the new legislation.

"The Government has the Treaty obligations. People who invest in those companies won't be themselves as investors obliged to pay attention to the Treaty."

Ten hui have been held around the country, which Mr English says provided a good platform for ministers and Maori groups to exchange views. He says the Government entered the process with an open mind and listened closely to what people had to say.

The Maori Party is claiming victory following the Government's announcement.

Co-leader Pita Sharples says the party has always been clear that it wants that Treaty clause transferred across in its entirety to the new legislation, but there is still work to do.

"We'll be looking to make sure that any wording that is substituted instead of the wording in Section 9 of the other act ... does the same job."

The Cabinet will make final decisions on the exact details of the new legislation in coming weeks.