9 Jul 2012

Waitangi Tribunal to hear asset sales arguments

10:06 am on 9 July 2012

The Waitangi Tribunal will on Monday be asked to recommend that the Crown puts off selling its first batch of shares in state owned enterprises.

The hearing at Waiwhetu Marae in Lower Hutt is connected to a wider urgent water rights claim brought by the Maori Council.

It argues iwi and hapu grievances need to be settled before the enterprises are partially privatised, saying the pool of assets available for Treaty redress would be reduced.

The Maori Council says the sale of shares should not go ahead until historical claims have been resolved.

It says the Government is selling shares on the basis that the right to use water is free, when Maori say it's not.

The Crown is opposed to an urgent hearing, saying any Maori claims to water and geothermal resources would not be compromised by the privatisation of power company shares.

It contends that Maori rights in water have not been established, and it's not a matter for a short, urgent hearing.

But the Crown says it remains committed to further talks with mana whenua and tangata whenua about water rights.

The Maori Council says while it does not represent all Maori, its claim before the Tribunal is intended to benefit all Maori.

The first part of the hearing will run into early next week.

Further comment

Jacitna Ruru from the University of Otago law faculty, told Morning Report that the issues surrounding ownership of water bed and water and air space above the water are not as clear cut as the Government thinks.

She said the Maori Council is putting forward an argument that water in rivers and lakes is taonga (precious) to Maori.

Under the conditions of the Treaty of Waitangi, she said water is owned by Maori until the Crown passes legislation that it owns the resource.