High Court – asset sales can go ahead

December 11, 2012

The High Court has ruled in favour of the Crown in the case over water ownership taken by the Maori Council.

Not surprisingly this verdict has been welcomed by Finance Minister Bill English and State Owned Assets Minister Tony Ryall:

“The High Court decision confirms the Government can proceed to sell up to 49 per cent of shares in four state owned energy companies, in accordance with the legislation passed by Parliament earlier this year,” Mr English says.

“The Government is firmly of the view that the partial sale of shares does not in any way affect the Crown’s ability to recognise rights and interests in water, or to provide redress for genuine Treaty claims.”

Mr Ryall says the Government’s share offer programme remains on track.

“The Government remains committed to an initial public offering of Mighty River Power Shares in the first half of 2013,” he says. “If the High Court decision is appealed, we hope this can be heard as soon as possible.

“The Government’s partial sale of shares in state owned enterprises is good for taxpayers, because we expect to generate between $5 billion and $7 billion in proceeds, which we will use to control debt.

“It is also good for New Zealand’s capital markets and it will improve the performance of the companies in the share offer programme.

“The Government will invest these proceeds in new public assets like modern schools and hospitals – and that’s money we don’t have to borrow from overseas lenders.”

I suspect the motivation for the case was at least in part opposition to the partial sales of assets in general rather than just being about the issue of Maori water rights in particular.

But whatever the motivation, the case has been a waste of time and money.

Scoop has the judgement here.


Treaty rights protected – judge

November 27, 2012

The Maori Council’s case attempting to stop the sale of up to 49% of shares in Mighty River Power opened yesterday.

The judge does not seem to be convinced:

However, Justice Young pushed back strongly in several exchanges with Cull, saying he could not understand the argument, given that the legislation explicitly assures Maori that the Crown would continue to be liable for settlement of such claims. . .

“You are really saying Parliament isn’t sovereign, that it is subject to the commercial interests of people involved with MRP” he said at one point. But Parliament changed the operating environment for companies “all the time.” . . .

“If the statute says it’s protected, it’s protected,” said Justice Young. The reassurance about the ability to continue pursuing Treaty of Waitangi claims was in the MOM legislation.

“Shareholders can’t object. They know the statute exists.” . . .

“Any Maori, hapu or iwi, who believe they have rights to water, can make a claim to the Waitangi Tribunal, irrespective of this. There is a mechanism,” said Justice Young of arguments from Cull that there was insufficient protection for assets that are or could in the future be subject to treaty claims.

“You identify a right and file a claim with the Waitangi Tribunal or negotiate a settlement,” he said. . .

The case is expected to cost the Maori C0uncil about $400,000.

They obviously think that will be money well spent but I doubt if many other people do.

 


Water wrongs

October 23, 2012

At 10 this morning the High Court will hear the Maori Council’s pleas for an injunction against the government’s plans to sell a minority share in Mighty River Power.

Is  this motivated by:

A) a principled belief that Maori own water.

B) politics.

C) the hope of more money for Maori.

D) the certainty of more money for lawyers.

E) ?


Maori don’t own water – Solomon

October 22, 2012

The Maori Council’s view that Maori own water and their rights are threatened by the partial sale of a few energy companies isn’t share by all Maori.

Ngai Tahu chair Mark Solomon says:

. . . We were the first people here. We managed our river systems. What we’re saying is we want input into the governance, into the management of the water systems. We do believe that we have a right to an allocation of water. But we do not – and this is a Ngai Tahu perspective: we cannot stand up and ask the government to recognise our rights and interests in water by advocating the taking away of rights and interests of other people. Ngai Tahu was part signatory to the Treaty of Waitangi, to which we believe is a partnership. We believe that there is a win-win model that gives Maori access to water alongside the rest of the nation so that we can be part of the economy of New Zealand. . .

. . .  Do I believe that Maori have an ownership in the sense of a fee simple title? No, I don’t. That is a Pakeha concept. Um, when I look at the concept of ownership within a Maori paradigm, I believe it’s about you have a right of use to use the fruits, or in a Pakeha term, the usufructuary rights, but I think you have a reciprocal obligation of kaitiaki. How you define that to a Pakeha word of ownership, I’m not quite sure.

This is part of an interview with Shane Taurima which shows a far more moderate and reasoned view of issues over water and the partial sale of energy companies than most others which have hit the headlines.

He also has this to say about the Maori Council’s pending court action:

Ngai Tahu’s stance and the members of the Iwi Leaders Group, our position is we would far prefer a negotiated agreement than court. Court, to us, has always got to be the last option, not the first. All it does is give the lawyers the new Mercedes every year.

SHANE           Have we reached that point, in your opinion?
 
MARK             No.

This shows the difference between an Iwi which is focussed on growth and those which are still stuck in grievance mode.

Court action will get publicity but it will be costly and will almost certainly achieve less than negotiation.

SHANE           So what should, do you think, be happening instead of going to court?
 
MARK             We can’t speak on behalf of all Maori. There is a big group of us that have a view that we need to be coming to a negotiated agreement. We will go along our path. We cannot stop any other group from taking legal action, and that is their right if that is the path that they wish to take.
 
SHANE           But you won’t be supporting this action being taken by the council?
 
MARK             Not at this stage. No, we will not.

SHANE           Tainui and the Maori King have pledged their support for the council; you won’t. So, going back, I suppose, to the Winston Peter’s quote, isn’t he right when he says the government is dividing?
 
MARK             There are 500,000, close to 600,000, Maori in New Zealand. I’ve never known any sector or community to have a unanimous view. We are like any other people. We will have varied views, and that is all of our right.

This is an important point and why the government keeps saying it will deal with individual Iwi rather than Maori as a whole.

Some Maori see a threat in the partial sale of a few energy companies. But while Solomon says he doesn’t support the sales personally he doesn’t believe the sell-down of a state owned energy company will affect Ngai Tahu’s rights and interest in water.


Why are the gods only angered by politics?

August 17, 2012

Karl du Fresne is not impressed by primitive superstition being delivered straight-faced on the news:

Due respect for Maori culture is one thing. Expecting us to swallow primitive superstition is quite another – yet I heard a reporter on Morning Report this morning solemnly relaying a Maori warning that recent volcanic activity on White Island and Mt Tongariro was a sign that Ruamoko, the god of earthquakes and volcanoes, was unhappy about the way the government was proceeding with the partial sale of state assets. This comes only a couple of weeks after the Maori Council’s lawyer, Felix Geiringer, invoked the Maori belief in taniwha at the Waitangi Tribunal hearing on water rights. . .

. . . As if citing taniwha wasn’t bad enough, we’re reduced to an even more abject embrace of stone-age superstition when the state-owned radio network can report, with a straight face, that the Maori god of earthquakes and volcanoes is cutting up rough because he (she?) doesn’t like what the government is doing.

What next? Will we be told that Tangaroa, the sea god, plans to unleash a tsunami that will rise up from Wellington Harbour and destroy the Beehive? Will Radio New Zealand report that John Key is at risk of being hit by a bolt of lightning directed at his head by Tawhirimatea, the weather god? . . .

Are the gods left wing or has their ire been raised by policies from the left in the past?

If they’re going to get angry,  why only about politics?

Why can’t they be enraged about child abuse; educational failure; gang culture; violence; drug, alcohol and gambling addiction; crime . . . and instead of directing their tantrums at innocent bystanders, couldn’t they aim it at the perpetrators?

If gods care about assets and water shouldn’t they also care about people?


Wai now?

August 3, 2012

Finance Minister Bill English and State Services Minister Tony Ryall have asked the Waitangi Tribunal for more information on its findings, recommendations and supporting reasoning in its inquiry into national fresh water and geothermal resources.

“The Government wants to consider the Tribunal’s recommendations and the reasons behind them as part of its decision on the Mighty River Power share offer this year,” they say.

“As we have said, we want to act in good faith and carefully consider the Tribunal’s recommendations.

“However, we appreciate the Tribunal’s interim direction on 30 July did not make substantive findings on any of the issues it identified. So we have today asked the Tribunal to provide its recommendations and reasoning by 24 August.

“To proceed with a Mighty River share offer in 2012, ministers would need to make decisions by the first week of September.

“We would do this on the basis of all the information available to us at that time, including the Waitangi Tribunal’s memorandum of 30 July.

“However, ministers would welcome the opportunity to consider the Tribunal’s detailed findings, its recommendations and its reasoning, which we do not have at this stage.”

Not all Maori are happy about the Maori Council’s decision to take the issue of water ownership to the Tribunal.

Trans Tasman writes:

Whatever motives the Maori Council had in taking the claim to the tribunal, the fact is the Maori Council in its own cognisance does not have any “rights” either to a global water resource, or a particular lake or river. Iwi or hapu may establish an “interest,” and there has been some push-back from iwi who believe the Maori Council claim could put their individual claims at risk.

Given this it’s easy to wonder if the Council is at least as much about delaying the asset sales as it is about claims to the water.

Otherwise why (or wai) now?

Contact Energy is a private company which uses the Clutha River and has been doing so for decades.

There are private and public water schemes the length and breadth of the country which take water for personal and commercial use, many of which have been doing so for more than 100 years.

None of these have been regarded as endangering any interest Maori might have in the rivers.

Why would the partial float of Mighty River Power be any different?


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,411 other followers

%d bloggers like this: