All John Key has given Maori is time

  • 06/09/2012

By Peter Wilson, Political Writer

Maori euphoria over the delay in the Mighty River Power share sale didn't last long.

The Maori Council's claim that it had achieved "a great victory" seems to have been made before it had taken notice of the rest of what Prime Minister John Key said at Monday's press conference.

He isn't offering Maori anything new and rejected both the Waitangi Tribunal's recommendations - a national hui on water rights and the "shares plus" scheme.

Ministers are going to discuss "shares plus" with iwi leaders over the next five weeks, but Key made it clear it isn't going to fly.

The idea put forward by the tribunal was for Maori groups with interests in water to be able to hold shares which carry powers "above and beyond" those of other shareholders in the partially privatised energy company.

Key says it isn't legally possible, it would make the company less attractive to investors and would drive the price down.

Why, then, spend five weeks talking about it?

Key says it is "the prudent thing to do" because he wants "clarity and certainty" before the share float next March.

The "clarity and certainty" will apparently confirm that "shares plus" isn't a runner.

The government isn't making any secret of its belief that consulting Maori ahead of the share sale will enhance its position if the Maori Council goes ahead with its threat to seek a High Court injunction to stop it.

Right now, all bets are off ahead of next Thursday's national hui on water rights called by Maori King Tuheitia.

The aim seems to be a pan-Maori stance on water rights, although what purpose that would serve isn't clear.

The government has persistently rejected any sort of "national solution" to Maori rights, water or otherwise.

Since it came to power it has been dealing with iwi on a case-by-case basis, and it has signed off a record number of settlements.

Ministers don't see any other way of dealing with Maori claims.

Getting just one iwi to agree within itself is difficult enough, and there have been numerous instances of negotiations being delayed because of internal disagreements.

Key says there is no one-size-fits-all solution for every iwi and hapu with an interest in water.

He cites the Waikato River co-management agreement with Tainui as an example of what can be achieved, and says that is the way the government is going to go.

The Maori Council sees this as a "divide and rule" policy, and says that until Maori "speak with one voice" the government is going to be able to continue to pick off individual iwi.

The government prefers to deal with the Iwi Leaders Group and isn't going to be talking to the Maori Council during the five-week consultation process.

The hui might be able to come up with a joint statement on water rights, but the possibility of iwi burying their differences and giving up their prospects of individual gain seems remote.

And if there ever is agreement that Maori should "speak with one voice" the question of who does the talking could stretch togetherness to breaking point.


source: newshub archive