Trust confirms it will appeal water decision

ELTON SMALLMAN
Last updated 05:00 13/12/2012

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The chairman of the Waikato River iwi claims trust in the water ownership debate confirmed they will appeal this week's decision of the High Court.

Waikato River iwi and the Maori Council brought court action to halt the partial sale of Mighty River Power but on Tuesday Justice Ronald Young ruled in favour of the Crown.

Chairman of the iwi claims trust Tamati Cairns said they have to move quickly and get a decision before the Government's initial public offering next year.

"March is when the Government is proposing to activate their selling of shares so there is not a lot of time," Mr Cairns said.

The Waikato River iwi trust and the Maori Council lost their case on all points in what Prime Minister John Key called a "crushing defeat".

Mr Key said he expects an appeal to fail but Mr Cairns said the door has been left open and he intends to follow due process.

"The judge himself said he is just the bus stop," Mr Cairns said. "I take that to mean if he is the bus stop, the bus must be leaving for another destination."

The Maori Council is considering whether to go straight to the Supreme Court but Mr Cairns said he is not sure if it is the right way to go.

"If it does happen I don't know if that is a good thing because the appeal process won't be tested."

The appeals process is the final hurdle for the Key-led government and failure will clear the way for the sale up to 49 per cent of Mighty River Power.

For Mr Cairns and Pouakani, it goes against the Supreme Court ruling in June that declared Crown ownership of a stretch of Waikato River near Mangakino to be null and void.

"The Supreme Court has found in Pouakani's favour but there hasn't been a court sitting to discuss the detail of that," Mr Cairns said.

Pouakani are expecting a hearing in February and Mr Cairns believes they have a strong case for water ownership.

"If someone can go along and put it in a bottle and sell it for three dollars what does that mean in terms of the land owner not having proprietary rights of the water?"

Waikato University senior law lecturer Matiu Dickson said the Waikato River iwi and the Maori Council have no choice but to appeal.

"They seem to truly believe that Maori people do have a proprietary interest in water."

He said the parties are too far down the legal track to turn back and they have to follow the appeals process to prove their case, their worth and their commitment.

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- Waikato Times

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