“..That is understood to be one option on the table as it faces a challenge from Maori over its asset sales programme.
An urgent Waitangi Tribunal hearing began in Lower Hutt yesterday – after the Maori Council lodged a claim testing the rights of Maori over water.
The hearing has been fast-tracked because of National’s state-asset part-selldown programme.
The tribunal will consider whether Treaty claimants are being denied a future stake in the state-owned power companies and the broader questions of Maori water and geothermal rights.
Prime Minister John Key yesterday upped the stakes by making it clear that the Government would ignore any tribunal ruling that overturned the common-law view that nobody owned the water.
The tribunal’s recommendations are not binding.
“The Government’s very firm view is that no-one owns water: we certainly don’t believe Maori own water; we don’t believe they own the airways, air or sea.”
Maori Council co-chairman Maanu Paul, who is among those taking the tribunal case, said Maori would fight Mr Key all the way to the Court of Appeal.
The Government had assumed ownership of water by using the proprietary rights to sell power generated by it, he said.
“This is the start of a very long war.”..”
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