Prime Minister John Key landed himself in hot water after suggesting that the Government could choose to ignore recommendations by the Waitangi Tribunal.
He was largely correct, but there are exceptions.
Binding recommendations can be made for the return of certain lands to Maori ownership.
The lands must be subject to a Crown forestry licence or be 'memorialised lands' - lands which are, or were, owned by a state-owned enterprise, tertiary institution or New Zealand Railways and have a memorial notation on their certificate of title.
Key said yesterday that he was not aware of any such land involved in the partial sale of Mighty River Power, the first state energy company to be sold.
In more than three decades of its existence, the tribunal has only made a binding recommendation once.
It involved a Turangi township claim was responded to by the Crown within the initial 90 day period during which all tribunal recommendations are considered to be interim.
Key has conceded a Waitangi Tribunal recommendation could delay asset sales.
The Government would take advice and meet the Maori Party before responding to the tribunal.
''We certainly intend to act with good faith. It doesn't mean that we agree or disagree, they're early days for that.''
Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia said yesterday she was keen to hear Key's side.
The party planned to stay out of the negotiations preferring to leave it up to iwi and hapu to represent themselves.
''We're opposed to asset sales so we're not supporting asset sales regardless. You can't have a bob both ways, we're opposed,'' she said.
The latest case echoes an earlier one involving radio spectrum - a case which ended up delaying government plans.
The 1990s radio frequency case, also taken by the Maori Council, eventually found Maori had rights over the radio spectrum.
The government of the day was looking to award 20-year rights to AM and FM radio frequencies and the tribunal recommended it wait until the council's claim was heard.
The matter ended up in the Court of Appeal where it was found ''no reasonable minister...could do other than allow the tribunal a reasonable time for carrying out its inquiry''.
The council has threatened to go to the court again over water rights if the Government does not heed recommendations made by the tribunal.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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