Asset sales to come with treaty clause

DANYA LEVY
Last updated 17:17 05/03/2012
MARCUS WILD

Legislation to enable the Government to partially sell four state-owned energy companies will be introduced to Parliament today and includes a clause to protect the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.

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TREATY CLAUSE: Bill English said following the consultation period it became clear that Maori wanted the clause retained.

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The Maori Party should stand by its promise and quit the Government over the inclusion of the Treaty of Waitangi in state-owned asset legislation, Mana Party leader Hone Harawira says.

Legislation to enable the Government to partially sell four state-owned energy companies will be introduced to Parliament today and includes a clause to protect the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.

The clause replicates Section 9 of the State-Owned Enterprises Act which requires the Government to act in a manner consistent with the principles of the treaty and clarifies private shareholders would not be affected.

It reads: "Nothing in this Party shall permit the Crown to act in a manner that is inconsistent with the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi. For the avoidance of doubt, (this) does not apply to persons other than the Crown."

Concern from Maori that such a clause would not be included in new legislation prompted the Government to hold 10 consultation hui around the country.

Maori Party co-leaders Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples had said they would end their coalition deal with the National Party if Section 9 of the State Owned Enterprises Act was not carried over to new legislation allowing for the sale of four energy companies.

The Government today confirmed they would carry over the clause, which requires the Crown to act in accordance with the principles of the Treaty, but will amend it to ensure it does not apply to private shareholders.

Despite earlier saying they would like to see the clause applied to everyone, the Maori Party says it is happy with the new clause.

But Harawira says they should quit.

"Maori did not ask for the Treaty to apply to only 51 per cent of shares. Maori want the Treaty to apply to all people at all times."

The Maori Party was honour bound to resign and anything less was a sell-out of the Treaty, he said.

Finance Minister Bill English said Maori conveyed a clear view at the hui that Section 9 should be retained.

The Government plans to sell up to 51 per cent of Mighty River Power, Genesis, Meridian and Solid Energy and further reduce its shareholding in Air New Zealand.

Mighty River Power is first off the block and an initial public offered is expected to be in the third quarter of the year.

The legislation will also require the Government to hold at least 51 per cent of the voting shareholding in each company and restrict shareholders from holding more than 10 per cent.

State-Owned Enterprises Minister Tony Ryall said revenue from the sales would ensure New Zealand avoided the debt trap Europe and the United Kingdom were in.

"The $5 to $7 billion we expect to free up by these partial share floats will go into the Future Investment Fund to build priority assets like schools, hospitals and infrastructure."

Ryall said the Government was seeking further commercial advice on the sale of shares in Air New Zealand because of "greater complexity" around its existing shareholdings.

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The legislation will have its first reading in Parliament on Thursday before being referred to the Finance and Expenditure Select Committee for consideration.

Although all opposition parties and the Maori Party oppose partial asset sales, the legislation is expected to pass its first hurdle with the support of ACT leader John Banks and United Future leader Peter Dunne.

- Stuff

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