Maori cleared to appeal water rights ruling

MICHELLE COOKE
Last updated 10:48 18/12/2012
DONNA HALL: The appeal will be heard on January 31 and February 1, making it a challenging opening for the New Year.
CRAIG SIMCOX
DONNA HALL: The appeal will be heard on January 31 and February 1, making it a challenging opening for the New Year.

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The Maori Council and Waikato River iwi have been granted leave to appeal a High Court decision which rejected their bid to block partial asset sales until water rights are resolved.

The Supreme Court granted the leave to appeal yesterday, just a week after a High Court decision rejected their bid.

The respondents have until Friday to prepare their case while the appellants - the council and iwi, represented by the Waikato River Dams Claim Trust - have until January 18 to serve their submissions.

The respondents include the Attorney General, Minister of Finance and Minister of State Owned Enterprises.

The council said it was pleased the case would now "leapfrog" from the High Court to the Supreme Court.

It will be heard on January 31 and February 1 next year, making it a challenging opening for the New Year, the council's solicitor Donna Hall said.

The iwi and council took the case to court earlier this year with the hopes of halting the Government's partial asset sale  plans until water rights issues were resolved.

If their appeal fails it will clear the way for the sale of up to 49 per cent of Mighty River Power - the first of four energy companies to be partially sold by the Government.

The appeal will examine whether the High Court was right to dismiss the council and iwi's application.

In his ruling on December 11, High Court judge Ronald Young found against the Maori Council and the Waikato iwi on all points.

He was satisfied the three proposed decisions of the Crown were based on Parliament's decision and were therefore not reviewable by the courts.

The Maori groups argued they were made by ministers, so were open to judicial review.

The three decisions were to move Mighty River Power out of the SOE Act, amend the constitution of the power generator/retailer and sell the shares.

Waikato River and Dams Claims Trust & Pouakani Claims Trust spokesman Tamati Cairns said at the time that while the decision wasn't a surprise the group would take the issue to the upper courts.

Prime Minister John Key labelled the High Court decision a "crushing defeat" against the iwi and council and he didn't expect the Supreme Court to overturn the decision.

"In principal, the Supreme Court could always overturn the High Court but it's hard to believe they're going to when you look at how significant the defeat was and how comprehensive the defeat was," he said earlier this month.

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Assets were intended to be partially sold as early as the first quarter of next year, but that may have to be postponed due to the Supreme Court's decision to grant appeal.

- Stuff

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