14 Jul 2012

Asset sales won't hurt Maori - Crown

6:12 pm on 14 July 2012

An urgent Waitangi Tribunal water rights inquiry has heard the Crown's partial asset sales proposal will not affect Maori.

This follows a week of submissions from claimants represented by the Maori Council and other independent parties.

Lawyer Paul Radich opened for the Crown by saying it accepts Maori have interests in fresh water and geothermal resources.

He told the tribunal the government will consider the claimants' interests, but they wouldn't be affected by the Crown's proposal to sell up to 49% in state-owned energy companies.

He says that's because resource consents granted to hydro generators involve only limited rights for a limited time.

And shareholders in such companies would have limited rights that don't include rights in governance or management.

Mr Radich says for that reason the discussion about water rights can continue after any sales.

Tribunal hearings were held urgently as some of the energy companies have hydro schemes, including Mighty River Power which is due to be sold in September, depending on market conditions.

Maori Council members filed a claim to the tribunal that seeks recognition of water rights and a recommendation to freeze Crown share sales in the companies.

Mr Radich told the tribunal that in order to stop the share sale in Mighty River Power it would have to be proven that this would be the only way to establish fresh water rights for Maori.

Claimants represented by the Maori Council and other parties made submissions earlier in the week, and the Crown will continue its submissions on Monday.