The Maori Party is claiming victory after last night's meeting with the Prime Minister over water rights, but John Key stopped short of apologising for what it called ''insulting'' comments about the Waitangi Tribunal.
The party met Key and senior government figures at the Beehive late last night for an hour-and-a-half after the Prime Minister said the Government could ignore the findings of the Tribunal, which is hearing an urgent claim from the Maori Council. The Council opposes Government moves to sell up to 49 per cent of four state-owned energy companies and hopes to delay the sale of Mighty River Power.
Key last night alleviated the Maori Party's greatest concern - that the Government would override any Maori interest over water with foreshore and seabed type law - by giving an assurance the Government would not legislate away their rights and interests.
Sharples said this morning the Maori Party had got more than it hoped for out of the meeting.
''We talked tough because it looked like it was an insult and he was going to ignore the findings,'' he told Radio New Zealand.
''He has come around and said not only will he look at them in good faith, he will sit down with us and work our way through the findings. That is exactly what we wanted.''
Asked yesterday if the Maori Party wanted an apology from Key over the comments, Turia replied: ''that would be nice''.
However Key had indicated before last night's meeting he would not be saying sorry because he was stating the Government's position.
Turia today said the Maori Party wasn't expecting to get an apology.
''We think that, like ourselves, the prime minister is entitled to say what he likes,'' she told TVNZ's Breakfast programme.
The important thing for the Maori Party was to avoid another foreshore and seabed controversy.
''The issue has never been about ownership. The issue has always been about Maori rights and interests.''
The claim by the Maori Council has been described by Key as ''opportunistic'' and has created anger within wider Maoridom.
Last week Turia refused to give an assurance the Maori Party would not walk away from its support arrangement with National after it was called on to do so by Opposition parties and the Maori Council.
Turia today said the Maori Party had ''huge support'' from Maoridom and had been flooded with letters and emails from Maori throughout the country who said the party's role was to sit at the table with the Government to advance their interests and aspirations.
''Which is what we do and it's not easy.''
- © Fairfax NZ News
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