11 Jul 2012

Govt could give iwi a slice of state generators

3:50 pm on 11 July 2012

There are three potential ways to resolve water ownership claims in New Zealand, says energy executive and businessman, Philip Galloway.

Mr Galloway has made a submission to the Waitangi Tribunal hearing into water rights at Waiwhetu Marae in Lower Hutt on Tuesday, where the Maori Council is trying to stall the partial sale of some state assets, including state run hydro generators.

The tribunal began urgent hearings on Monday on claims filed by the Maori Council, seeking recognition of water rights and a recommendation to freeze Crown share sales in the companies.

The Crown will begin to put its side of the argument from Friday.

Mr Galloway says Maori could gain recognition through receiving payments for water leased to companies, or a royalty regime could be set up for mana whenua to collect fees for water that flows through turbines.

But Mr Galloway says the most workable option would be for the Crown to give Maori a slice of state-owned enterprises.

SOE shares may work where a Maori group has lost their ownership rights to the water, and the shares may give them a connection to that water that wouldn't receive because they're not currently owners, so it is by way of compensation.

Mr Galloway says governments in New Zealand have until now ducked the issue of water ownership because there's an abundance of it.

Another energy specialist, Brian Cox, told the tribunal hearing that royalty payments could be a way of resolving some water ownership claims.

Mr Cox says ownership of water could be settled through providing mana whenua with shares in state assets, but he would prefere to introduce royalty payments to Maori, for the use of water that flows through turbines.

Mr Cox says the fees model works well with landowners.

He says he's previously set up schemes where farmers receive royalty payments for allowing energy companies to install wind turbines on their whenua.

Prime Minister John Key says he respects the right of the Maori Council to go to the tribunal but the Government is not bound to respond to any rribunal findings or act on them.

The tribunal hearing continues.