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Asset sale delay likely

Written By: - Date published: 7:15 am, July 17th, 2012 - 62 comments
Categories: Maori Issues, maori party, national, Privatisation, water - Tags: , , ,

Even John Key is now admitting that the asset sale program is facing a serious legal challenge:

John Key concedes likely asset sales delay

Prime Minister John Key has conceded the first asset sale could be delayed because a legal challenge from Maori over water ownership is looking increasingly inevitable. …

The Government is due to sell 49 percent of Mighty River Power in September, but the Prime Minister now admits legal action from Maori may force the sale to be delayed. …

Court action from Maori has always been an option, but now Mr Key has gone a step further, saying it seems inevitable.  “I think we should work on the principle that there is a high probability that we will be going to court.”

Any delay will have several effects:

It will give fresh impetus to the collection of signatures for the citizen’s initiated referendum. Depending on the timing of any legal process, hearings and appeals, there is now a possibility that a referendum could be held before any assets are sold.  The mandate that Key claims would be further undermined.

It will highlight the Nat’s irresponsible “creative accounting” in booking the proceeds of the sale of the assets well before the sales were certain or the price was known.  It may even get the media looking in to the other dodgy numbers surrounding the sales.

It will increase the odds of scaring off investors, and therefore the odds that the whole sales process will turn in to a mighty flop.

It will strengthen Maori interest in water rights and increase the already incredible pressure on the Maori Party to finally stand for something and walk out of a government that has been so arrogant and dismissive.  That would leave the Nats entirely dependent on Peter Dunne, and John (currently under investigation) Banks.

Interesting times.

[update. Key has compared the odds of a delay to the odds “a meteorite will hit the Earth this afternoon” – guess he doesn’t realise there are five hundred meteor impacts a year]

62 comments on “Asset sale delay likely”

  1. Tom Gould 1

    Turns out Key acknowledged in writing that Maori had “specific rights and interests” in fresh water back in 2009, yet he seems to have chosen not to recall that, or as a self-professed deal making business guru, to have factored that into the asset sales process. Looks like they have been playing the Maori Party for chumps all along.

    • Kotahi Tane Huna 1.1

      He advised himself that he was just one John Key and he could show himself another one to give himself a counterview.

    • Tom Gould 1.2

      Fascinating how the media is now reporting about “water rights” now Key is moving into appeasement mode, having steadfastly reported about “water ownership” while Key was in wedge mode? Pathetic craven lapdogs.

    • bad12 1.3

      It may just be that National and the Maori Party have been attempting to squeeze some much needed political capital for their respective party’s out of the asset sale debacle,

      National get to inflame the ‘redneck’ attitude to Maori being given more via the Waitangi Tribunal claims while the Maori Party get to do the same with the Maori vote through Slippery dissing the Tribunal….

      • mickysavage 1.3.1

        Maybe bad12 but they both then run the risk of annoying their supporters if either or both of them back down.

        The politics at play are fascinating to watch! 

        • bad12 1.3.1.1

          The history at play here,and i put a brief bit in a comment below,is utterly fascinating, the quiet patience and peaceful protest of Maori over the rivers and lakes that has gone on for 100s of years can only be applauded…

  2. Kotahi Tane Huna 2

    Just for a moment I’d like to take a pause and celebrate. a small victory, but a victory nonetheless.

    Now for the bad news: this National Party has shown its willingness to play the race card. With their flagship policy in tatters (of their own making – four years to prepare for it and they still screwed it up) and their attack on education faltering, get ready for the ugliness.

    • I agree.  

      I am not sure that I would want to run an election campaign during a time when Key was blowing the racist whistle for all that it was worth.  Back in 1981 despite a government in tatters and an economy in free fall National managed to hang on because of the strength of the red neck vote stirred up over the Springbok tour.

      We could be in for a similar time. 

      • Pete 2.1.1

        I’m sure there’ll be some reactionaries, but my belief is that people are so against the asset sales that they’ll view the Maori claim – and anything else that would stymie the sales – as a good thing. However, I fear there’d be a major backlash if a deal is done that would allow the sales to go ahead – either as a share bundle or a license fee.

      • OneTrack 2.1.2

        So, who does own the water Micky?

    • RedLogix 2.2

      Yes .. but on reflection, while Key may be a slippery trader boy, I’m not sure even he has the stomach for that. It’s a mistake to paint the man as unalloyed evil; he’s just the usual mix of folly’s and delusions that all us humans are made from.

      What would be interesting though is the reaction of the more reactionary elements of the National Party if Key refuses to lead them where they want to go.

      • Kotahi Tane Huna 2.2.1

        Does he need to do any more? The line that “no-one owns the water” was a pretty clear signal. Talk-back can do the rest.

        • marty mars 2.2.1.1

          Yes, he can seed it all and stand back going “who me?… that’s not what I meant” etc. The biggest factor is, I just don’t think tangata whenua are going to sit back to be target practice for key or his minions. My feel is that the game has changed and just gone up a couple of notches.

          • ak 2.2.1.1.1

            Ae Marty. In fact it’s been notching up for a number of years.

            National crept out of it’s 2002 gutter solely on the back of the blatant media promotion of Orewa One. The Race Card is the modern National Party’s founding document – and nuclear option of last resort.

            But in 2008 young Johnny Beiber needed the Maori Party to deny a poisonous ACT domination – and thus unwittingly cemented permanent political power for Maori.

            And most crucially, the decent kiwi public liked it. Including even the final – but significant -vestiges of “old torydom”: that wistful noblesse oblige landed gentry and religio-decency brigade who vote in large numbers. Thus Brash’s race card attempt last year was a spectacular failure.

            As will be this one from Key. It’s a final, desperate flip-flop too far. The Nice man stooping to the gutter, leaving the public confused and his former proteges incensed. Beginning of the end.

          • Colonial Viper 2.2.1.1.2

            I just don’t think tangata whenua are going to sit back to be target practice for key or his minions.

            Seems like AFFCO got a kicking when Iwi decided to mobilise their economic might.

  3. higherstandard 3

    Why not just start with Solid Energy ?

    • rosy 3.1

      Now why didn’t National think of that? I’d suggest a recent mine disaster may have had something to do with it – it may make them seem even more callous than they are.

  4. xtasy 4

    Yeah! Another step ahead of blocking the idiotic sale of strategic assets to the selected few, who whill only suck the blood out of consumers and the wider economy, enriching the not so “mum and dad” camouflaged investors and harming all others.

    By the way, while this dumb Nat ACT government in little ol Kiwiland is so damned stubbornly following out of fashion idiologies, listen to this news just at hand:

    ‘Financial Times Deutschland’ is reporting that the “Grand Coalition” (Conservatives and Social Democrats) that now governs Germany’s largest city Berlin, is planning to pass legislation on Tuesday, reversing the sale of half of the shares in the city’s water supply enterprise (to RWE and VEOLIA!!!), that happened a few years back.

    The German equivalent of the Commerce Commission has ruled that the water supply company has been abusing its strategic position and power and severely overcharging consumers, so that it expects the Berlin City Council (or government) to ensure that water rates will be reduced by 18 per cent this year, and by similarly more in coming years.

    The conclusion was, the privatisation of 49.9 per cent of the enterprise led to RWE and Veolia unfairly pushing up prices, merely to get the best returns for their shareholders. Now we all know who Veolia is, don’t we? They run the second or third rate train system in Auckland, likely also ripping Auckland Council and commuters off.

    So while Key and consorts are telling the NZ public (too brainwashed by dumb, commercialised media) that the energy companies must be sold up to 49 per cent, in other places the lessons have been learned, so that the pollies in charge are heading in the other direction.

    I am sure that this will not be researched and mentioned in any mainstream media in elite business and right wing political dictatorship Aotearoa NZ!?

  5. xtasy 5

    Some links for further background info re partial “asset” or water enterprise share sales in Berlin, Germany:

    http://www.canadianswinnipeg.org/apps/blog/show/5304438-secret-veolia-details-exposed-in-berlin

    http://washinternational.wordpress.com/2011/02/02/referendum-on-the-disclosure-of-the-contracts-of-the-partial-privatisation-of-the-berlin-water-utility/

    http://www.globalwaterintel.com/archive/10/12/general/10-years-of-berlins-water-ppp.html

    http://www.veoliawater.com/solutions/case-studies/berlin-wastewater.htm

    http://www.ftd.de/politik/deutschland/:verstaatlichung-berlin-vor-rueckkauf-seiner-wasserbetriebe/70064118.html
    (last link sadly only to German article, as still developing story and no English articles found).

    The corporate info publications are all about “success” and full of gloss, but the other side of the story is how the consumer had to pay huge increases in user charges or essential water consumption.

    Wake up NZ and stop this crap happening here!

  6. Observer 6

    Xtasy

    Thanks for this great piece of news out of Berlin.

    If strategic Assets can be taken back from the clutches of the greedy in Berlin, the same could be done here.

  7. Roy 7

    Well done Maori! If the tangata whenua can stop the asset sales, all strength and support to them!

  8. bad12 8

    Who would have thunk it, the seeds of the demise of National’s second term flagship policy of asset sales may have been sown as far back as 1896,

    An engrossing picture of historical and modern day politics intertwined with judicial action now and back in the 1800’s

    Just from the point of the ‘Poukani Decision’ in Paki V Crown from the recent Court of Appeal case over ‘ownership’ of the bed of Lake Maraetai at Mangkino on the Waikato river,

    There is also i believe a Privy Council decision from the 1800’s where Wairarapa Iwi sought from the Privy Council ‘ownership’ of Wairarapa Moana, although i have as yet been unable to track down that actual Privy Council ruling it gave to the Wairarapa Iwi the ownership they sought,

    Following on from this Privy Council decision the Government of the time in what Wairarapa Maori say was a sale but the Government say was a ‘ceding’ sold the lake to the Crown for 2000 pound and what was supposed to be a substantial block of land near the lake,

    The block of land that Wairarapa Maori were eventually given was in fact the Pouakani block at Mangakino 100s of miles from the Wairarapa and part of Crown land seizures from the Maori in the King Country,

    The next action of Government was to build the dam at Mangakino creating Lake Maraetai and the actual town without consulting the Pouakani block Maori owners in any way and subsequently flooding parts of the Pouakani Block permanently under the lake,

    Fascinating history, that will never be taught in a school room, and would make an amazing movie just in that small window of time and a brilliant highlight of how Maori have quietly fought this fight over rivers and lakes over 100s of years and this particular fight has the power to bite the present day Government in the butt bigtime…

  9. Kevin 9

    Despite John Key’s rhetoric that “no one owns the water”, it is clear that Maori do in fact have rights with regard to water and that is being tested in the urgent Waitangi Tribunal hearing intiated by the Maori Council.
    The government will have three options to consider as a result of the outcome of that hearing,
    1. The Waitangi Tribunal rules in favour of the Maori Council thereby providing the precedent to initiate a legal challenge to the sales via the courts which will halt the process
    2. Recognise Maori customary rights and provide for them via an allocation of shares
    3. Ignore the Tribunal recommendations and proceed with the sales regardless, only to face injuctive actions further down the track.
    Whatever the outcome of those options they are unlikely to impede the government from proceeding with the sales, however for the purchasers there will be a caveat emptor to consider.

  10. gobsmacked 10

    Key’s staffers have come up with some pretty effective lines over the years (cringey cheesy, but making a headline, which is all that matters – “show me the money”, “hydra-headed monster” etc).

    But they’ve lost the plot with this “meteorite” line. It was the lead-in on the lunchtime news (TVNZ), it’ll be picked up by all media, it cries out for a piss-take … and it’s a huge hostage to fortune.

    It re-frames the issue as unpopular asset sales, being rushed through – whereas Key wants it to be “greedie Mowrees”.

    Sack whoever wrote it, John. They must be working for your successor already.

  11. gobsmacked 11

    BTW, could somebody in an opposition office PLEASE pay attention to this stuff? It’s soooo frustrating waiting for you guys to wake up.

    Simple task: 1) Go to science websites 2) Get details of meteorite hitting earth. Plenty to choose from. 3) Inform media/public that asset sales are to be delayed, because the PM has said so.

    It’s not hard.

    • Pete 11.1

      By definition, all meteorites hit the earth: “A meteorite is a natural object originating in outer space that survives impact with the Earth’s surface”-Wiki

    • xtasy 11.2

      Yes, right! I could not agree more.

      It sadly rather seems they are mostly pre-occupied to spend time on themselves, somehow trying to work out their inner, undiscovered selves or mantras.

      Really an abysmal situation in present NZ politics. It is grim reading, when some are trying to get excited when the leading opposition party gets one or a half percentage points more support from poll to poll.

      If that is promising, I do not want to know what depressing news will look like.

    • Colonial Viper 11.3

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_impact_craters_in_Australia

      List of meteorite strikes in Australia.

      • gobsmacked 11.3.1

        Impact craters aren’t relevant. Most meteorites are very small. But the point is … they hit the earth. All the time.

        The PM appointed a science advisor, but seems to prefer sci-fi movies.

      • McFlock 11.3.2

        And at 500 meteorites a year, methinks Key is being uncharacteristically pessimistic. :)

        • OneTrack 11.3.2.1

          Clutching. …. At …… Straws …

          • felix 11.3.2.1.1

            Yeah, McFlock’s the one making ridiculous claims in a time of desperation when nothing else seems to be working.

      • felix 11.3.3

        There’s no reason why NZ shouldn’t be able to catch up to Australia in meteorite strikes by 2025.

    • joe90 11.4

      Hmm, Mahuika.

  12. Carol 12

    Well, in the clip on Stuff, Key mentions meteors, repeats that no-one owns water, Maori has some rights re-water, repeats his arguments for MOM, says MP in government has achieved a lot for their people, and his governments preferred position is that the sale goes ahead in February. There’s also some scepticism from Shearer in the clip.

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/7290658/Key-Maori-should-negotiate-with-Government

    The argument now being put forward as in the accompanying Small & Levy article, is that Maori should deal directly with the government. he calls the Tribunal hearing over water rights “opportunistic”.

    Seems like he’s hoping the path of the meteor will go right between Maori factions and split them – back to wedge politics.

    The Maori Council’s claim over water at the Waitangi Tribunal is “opportunistic” and there should be no link made to the Mighty River share sale, Prime Minister John Key says.
    […]
    He took the Council’s claim as one for ownership of water, not just rights and interests.

    “The Maori Council are essentially saying, … as articulated by Maanu Paul when he said they own the water, that ownership means any change in the ownership structure of Mighty River.”

    That would therefore be impacted by a potential change in ownership.
    […]
    Prime Minister John Key says negotiating directly with the Government is a ”much more logical and sensible way” for Maori to resolve water rights issues than through the Waitangi Tribunal.
    [..]
    Key today rejected suggestions of growing pressure and speculation the issue was escalating into the furore created with the foreshore and seabed law which Turia walked out of Labour over.

    ”I think that’s nonsense,” Key said.

    Those calling for the Maori Party to walk away were mainly lawyer and Mana Party member Annette Sykes and Maori Council chair Manu Paul who were ”largely supporters of (Mana Party leader) Hone Harawira”, he said.

    ”That does not mean that the Maori Party should leave. I think they’ve achieved an awful lot in Government.”

    The Maori Council only represented one group within Maoridom, Key said.

    ”It’s not necessarily the view shared by many other groups within Maoridom.”

    But Key is playing a dangerous game – he may be giving oxygen to the Mana Party apart from anything else. I’m pretty sure Stuff’s earlier version of the article has Kiwi saying he could deal directly with the Iwi leaders.

    And I’m trying to work out what NAct’s great achievements have been for Maori- in employment? Wages? Cost of living?

    • Carol 12.1

      Oh, it was the Herald that mentioned Key preferring t deal directly with Iwi leaders:
      http://www.nzherald.co.nz/politics/news/article.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=10820095

      While recent days have see support for the council’s claim from some members of Maoridom’s peak body, the Iwi Leaders Group, Mr Key said the Government had been addressing the issues around Maori rights and interests in water in discussions with iwi leaders over the last four years, “and I think that there’s no merit in the case that the Maori Council is bringing.”

      “Most of the Maori I talk to want to see a resolution to their rights and interests and they are comfortable the process the Government is taking is the right one.

      “In my view the Maori Council speaks for one group in Maori but certainly not all Maori. There are many iwi leaders who support the Government. They’ve been very supportive of what we’ve been doing over the last three or four years and they’ve seen that process as a much more logical and coherent process than any application by the Maori Council to the Waitangi Tribunal.

    • bad12 12.2

      Slippery can cry ”no-one owns water” for as long as He can still draw breath but the reality of that is totally different,

      In 1883 the Native Land Court registered Piripi Te Maari, Ramera Te Iho and 137 others as the ‘owners’ of lakes Onoke and Wairarapa….

  13. gobsmacked 13

    Toby Manhire is onto it …

    http://www.listener.co.nz/uncategorized/facts-bugger-up-john-key%E2%80%99s-meteorite-analogy/

    Twitter is onto it. Even TVNZ are onto it.

    I have to go out now, but I’m guessing that when I get back this evening, everyone will be onto Key’s latest gift to the opposition. Except … the opposition, whose job it is to be onto it.

    • weka 13.1

      Did you see the sole comment on The Listener?
       

      49% partial Asset Sales.
      49% of a dumb idea is still a dumb idea.
      He’s only 1% away from being a half wit !

  14. Rupert 14

    Anyone who thinks that Key will come out second-best if the Waitangi Tribunal holds the process up is pretty detached from reality – “Maoris blocking the governments plans”? Talk about a rallying cry to National’s rump (as wrong as that is)

    • bad12 14.1

      It won’t be the Waitangi Tribunal which puts the spanner in the asset sales machine, the Tribunal will simply make a recommendation from the evidence it hears,

      Considering that Counsel for the Crown at the present Waitangi tribunal hearings have already conceded that the Crown’s belief is that Maori do have ‘rights’ to fresh water in rivers, lakes, and streams i would imagine that the Waitangi Tribunal report will be scathing of the Government, and possibly recommend that the Government cease it’s asset sales program until such ‘rights’ have been fully adjudicated,

      To this end, expect the New Zealand Maori Council to seek an injunction from the High Court saying just that, considering the Crown’s earlier concession of Maori having rights to fresh water i would expect that the High Court will be only too happy to grant such an injunction,

      At that point Slippery and National have only 3 choices, fight the New Zealand Maori Council all the way to the Supreme Court, legislate any Court decisions out of existence, or, negotiate a settlement with the New Zealand Maori Council…

    • Carol 14.2

      Mai Chen was interesting just now on RNZ-Mora’s Panel. She said there are loads of claims and papers to be looked at, and the situation is quite complex. She thinks Key is pretty good at making deals, and he may be able to negotiate deals. But she also thinks he is ignorant of all the legal issues raised by previous claims, cases etc.

      Chen also said, looking at all the legal precedents, the Treaty etc,a y4ear ago she could have predicted exactly what’s happening now with Maori groups claiming water rights. So the implication is that the government also should have bee able to predict it.

      She also said the Resource Management Act said stuff on water, and may be in breach of the Treaty – it also needs looking at.

      Chen said she has an article on the issue being published on Thursday.

      • felix 14.2.1

        “So the implication is that the government also should have bee able to predict it.”

        Listening to Tony Ryall in parliament today, it seems like the govt’s latest line is that they totes predicted it, they knew exactly what would happen and they’re wicked prepared for it and everything is going exactly to plan and if there are delays, well that’s all part of the plan too cos they definitely expected and planned for all of this. Definitely.

        And I say “line” because he repeated it three times while answering one question.

      • Uturn 14.2.2

        She thinks Key is pretty good at making deals, and he may be able to negotiate deals.

        Unless he purposely doesn’t want asset sales, then he has demonstrated no ability to negoitate or make deals over the water issue at all. His “pretty good” skill in this case, is similar to someone walking into a bank managers office and saying, “Fuck you, even if you deny my loan I’ll just rob your bank!”

        • rosy 14.2.2.1

          Or unless he purposely wants to drive the price down… i.e. a better deal for investors is more important that a good deal (relatively speaking) for the country.

  15. This article from Rawiri Taonui covers some interesting areas well.

    Apart from including the usual references to the Treaty, principles in common law and New Zealand history, a report will make international comparisons. The United States and Canada have recognised water rights in several treaties and settlements…

    Earlier in the year, Mr Key has been glib about Maori claims, derided the significance of section 9 in the State Owned Enterprise Act to the chagrin of the legal community, dismissive of possible settlements writing off allocating shares as Mr English suggested, and trivialised the tribunal. Each is less than the good faith expected of a Treaty partner.

    Maori claims to fresh water are in the interests of all New Zealanders. Selling these assets to foreign buyers may reduce our mana and control of an increasingly premium resource.

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/politics/news/article.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=10820007

    • bad12 15.1

      State Owned Enterprises Act 1986, Section 9,

      ”Nothing in this Act permits the Crown to act in a manner that is inconsistent with the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi”…

  16. gobsmacked 16

    Yes, as stated upthread … it was the “meteorite” on 3 News and “meteor” (sic) on One News. Duncan Garner’s report even provided a helpful little visual.

    So, so predictable.

    Day after day this happens – you hear Key’s prepared line, you can see the news story coming, hours beforehand, and then you just have wait for Labour to notice. After everybody else has.

    What can we do? Can we have a daily “NewsTips for the Opposition” thread, on the Standard? Can we feed them the soundbites? Can we write their media releases for them? It’s so obvious, and yet they’re so slow. Every bloody day.

    *weeps*

    • Uturn 16.1

      A while back I figured out that any given hierarchial organisation is several points lower in collective capability than its least capable member. This isn’t a plea for patience over the problem you highlight, just an observation that may spare you, personally, a breakdown through frustration. Even if you did hand the stuff to them on a plate, the organisation would drop it on the floor and reassemble it out of order, a day late, in the wrong format and at the wrong location.

  17. bad12 17

    The Slippery Prime Minister describes the Maori Council approach to the Waitangi Tribunal over the issue of Maori ‘ownership rights’ to fresh water as ‘opportunistic’,

    Shucks Slippery does that mean that the Maori Council has learned from the Crown who have since 1840 taken every ‘opportunity’ to dispossess Maori of everything in their possession and they have now taken the most opportune moment in their quiet battle over fresh water rights that has been ongoing since the 1800s to bend the Crown over the table and ‘demand’ cough!!!

    Save the wah,wah,wah Prime Minister, just assume the position…

  18. mike e 18

    Or Air New Zealand shares aren’t worth bugger all at the moment all airlines around the world are in dire straights .

    • Zaphod Beeblebrox 18.1

      I personally would not be investing in big generator power comapnies either. energy efficiency and home based solar inverters will mean power demand will only go down. Why transfer electrons from one end of the country to the other when you can generate your own for a good price?

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