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Legal action to halt asset sales begins

VERNON SMALL
Last updated 17:36 19/10/2012

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The Maori Council has launched its legal action to block the Government's part-sale of state owned energy companies and a hearing is set down for Tuesday.

Lawyers Donna Hall and Felix Geiringer handed over documents this afternoon at the High Court in Wellington.

Geiringer said the application for judicial review of various Government decisions on behalf of the Maori Council.

Waikato-based iwi Pouakani is seeking an injunction to stop the sale of Mighty River Power - the first scheduled sale - over claims it owns the riverbed.

A Supreme Court ruling in June confirmed "the riverbed adjoining the Pouakani lands is not vested in the Crown" and opened the way for the people to lay claim to it. 

The area of the Waikato riverbed under claim houses three Mighty River Power dams: Maraetai I, Maraetai II and Waipapa.

Geiringer said the iwi had sought an urgent hearing before the Government's order in council on Tuesday which would have cleared the way for Mighty River Power to be taken out of the SOE Act in preparation for its partial sale.

The Court had made time for that on Tuesday morning at 10am and the council would be there too.

Hall said the iwi was not a separate group, and the two would come together on Tuesday.

The council had asked for an interim order to stop all steps towards privatising MRP and on Tueday it would discuss whether it was approporiate that should cover the order in council.

''Our starting positon is the Government should put down its pen and stop working on this at least it has met and resolved the issues in relation to the protection of Maori interests,'' Geiringer said.

Hall said the council had not yet raised all the budgeted $400,000 to take the legal action.

She said the council would not have taken the action if it did not think the chances of success were better than 50 per cent.

It had attempted to engage public law specialist Matthew Palmer but he could not take up the position.

He had only recently left Crown Law and it was too soon to take on a claim of this nature, Hall said.

Helen Cull QC was part of the legal team.

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