The Nats have decided to try to lean on the judiciary to get asset sales handled the way they want. The Judge is ‘Red Ron’. The Court shouldn’t try to decide water rights at a level of general principle. The Maori Council mustn’t get legal aid. The case should be kicked straight up to the Supreme Court and settled before March. It’s not working. It’s not going to work. And the costs are mounting.
Remember, on Planet Key, we were all going to be clambering over each other to buy shares in Mighty River by now. In reality, they haven’t even worked out who has the ownership papers to the company’s most important asset – it’s water.
So far, they’ve spent $1.25m of taxpayer money on the water rights dispute kicked off by the asset sales alone. The Greens’ Costwatch stands at $16.4m, which doesn’t include the updated water rights costs and the half million sweetheart deal to Mighty River’s CEO. So, something like $17.5m so far at the very least (the big part of the the Greens’ numbers are only to June 30). That’s without a share being sold. Or even offered to the public. It’s going to get much, much more expensive from here on. Unless National comes down to earth and drops this dumb policy.
I understand that the Keep Our Assets Coalition basically has the 308,000 signatures they need now but they’re going to collect another 20% to allow for the inevitable invalids. Let’s get through that final 70,000-odd by the end of November.
The other question is this. English said the other day that the slowing economy is a reason to go ahead with the sales. Which is funny because in the past he’s called supposed strong growth that’s just around the corner (that brighter future keeps on moving a little more into the future, eh?) as a reason to sell. Has the Government actually bothered to set conditions which would trigger them to stop the sales? Is there a net revenue return that wouldn’t be enough for them? I bet there isn’t. They’ll sell if they get any chance at all.
Which is why the Maori Council’s law suit is so important. At the least, it’s very likely to delay the Mighty River sale to October 2013. At best (and to hear National tell it, this simply isn’t a possibility), the Maori Council will win and the Court will order the Government to settle water rights with affected iwi before the sales go ahead, which will be enough to effectively kill the programme. No wonder the Nats are starting to lean on the courts to get things the way they want.
Of course, while all this is going on, the actual economy is going to hell in a handbasket (the latest is that plummeting tourism will see 20 job losses in Auckland – who’s the Minister of Tourism?). But the Nats are so distracted and obsessed by asset sales that they hardly seem to have noticed.
lprent: Shifted the “Red Ron” link to a APNZ copy on the ODT since the version in the NZ Herald has changed. (Thanks Wayne and toad for bringing it to our attention). I apologize for my laxity (been working on a openSSL pipe bug this morning).
The hearing will begin in the High Court at Wellington at 10am but is expected to be heard in chambers unless the judge deems it in the public interest to be heard in open court.
Justice Ronald Young – sometimes referred to as “Red Ron” for his liberal leanings – is thought to be hearing the case. The Crown will be represented by Crown Law counsel Jason Gough and Wellington barrister David Goddard, QC.
It will argue that nothing, not the order-in-council, nor the sale itself, limits the Government’s ability to address Maori rights and interests in water.
The Maori Council will be represented by Felix Geiringer who ran the council’s case at the Waitangi Tribunal hearing in July.
Audrey is almost as bad as John Key for making unwarranted assertions about the court in my opinion.