In all the discussion over Maori claims to water rights, the Government's position has been consistent and clear, writes Eric Roy (National) in From the Beehive.
In common law, no-one owns water. Maori do have rights and interests in water that are being addressed, and will continue to be addressed, through the Treaty process and by other mechanisms, iwi by iwi.
The partial sale of Mighty River Power early next year does not impact on the Crown's ability to recognise Maori rights and interests in water.
The Government's preferred focus is to develop models for the control and management of water that reflect relevant Maori interests. We already have those processes under way, through dialogue with iwi leaders and through the Government's Fresh Start for Fresh Water process.
This is the position we have taken to the Maori Council.
The issue is not about the Government against Maori, or Mori against Government. In fact, within Maoridom there are differing views on the position taken by the Maori Council.
The report of the Waitangi Tribunal offered a concept called "shares plus", which it suggested would address this issue. This proposal, in a nutshell, would give iwi more rights than other shareholders.
Cabinet carefully considered the Waitangi Tribunal report before deciding that "shares plus" is neither necessary nor desirable.
The Government is to undertake a short period of consultation with relevant iwi on "shares plus" to ensure we have considered all possible aspects of the concept.
This will be done during the next five weeks.
Despite the delay, the Government is firmly committed to the share-offer programme.
The alteration to the timeframe for the initial public offering of Mighty River Power does not change our commitment to providing investment opportunities to New Zealanders.
The Government is still committed to providing investment opportunities to New Zealanders through our share-offer programme.
It's good for savers, because it opens up new opportunities to invest in large, local companies.
It's good for taxpayers because we expect to generate between $5 billion and $7 billion in proceeds, which will be invested in new public assets such as modern schools and hospitals.
That's money we don't have to borrow from overseas lenders.
The sooner we can start it, the better for everyone.
» Eric Roy is the electorate MP for Invercargill.
- The Southland Times
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