Second asset sales hui unreceptive

KATE CHAPMAN AND MIKE WATSON
Last updated 05:00 20/09/2012

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More than 100 people turned up at two Government asset sales hui yesterday, but they were little more receptive than those who boycotted an earlier meeting.

Finance Minister Bill English is holding meetings on the "shares plus" option raised by the Waitangi Tribunal. It would give Maori additional rights not available to other shareholders, when state-owned energy companies were partially sold.

The Government is opposed to the idea and has said Maori would have to convince it otherwise.

Just 15 Tainui representatives attended a hui earlier this week in protest at the lack of real consultation.

About 100 showed up at meetings in Taupo and Whanganui yesterday. Prime Minister John Key said that showed there was an interest in the meetings.

"We reject the notion of shares plus, because we just don't think it works, but we are genuinely having a discussion about whether there's something we've missed, whether there are other alternatives. We don't think there is."

Ngati Tuwharetoa leader Sir Tumu te Heuheu said the prime minister had made it clear he did not believe shares plus was necessary or desirable.

"This does not instill in me any confidence that the shares plus proposal will assist the resolution of Ngati Tuwharetoa's substantive issues."

He urged the Government to continue negotiating with the iwi.

"It is of great concern . . . that historical and contemporary Crown enactments and omissions have overridden the capacity of Ngati Tuwharetoa to benefit from the reasonable use of our taonga."

Whanganui iwi spokesman Gerrard Albert said those at the meeting in the city were resolute in their opposition to asset sales.

"Whanganui iwi are clear that they do not see that proposal as reflecting or addressing their relationship with the Whanganui River."

Mr Albert wanted to see a proposal that considered the iwi's use of the entire river.

At the meeting in Taupo, Finance Minister Bill English said there was usually a "bit of drama around these issues".

"These are important issues to be talking about . . . we're all patient people."

The hui were about ensuring everyone was clear on the issues and that problems could be dealt with before a final decision.

"If there's an expectation that these issues can all be settled within a matter of months, we can't meet that expectation."

The Government could resolve claims only with specific iwi, not with the Maori Council, which launched the water ownership claim with the Waitangi Tribunal, he said.

Mana Party leader Hone Harawira said the meetings were not about consultation.

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"[Government] are not coming out to ask anybody any questions, they're coming out to tell people: ‘No, no, no and no'."

- The Dominion Post

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