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Key will not negotiate nationwide water rights

Published: 8:06AM Friday September 14, 2012 Source: ONE News

The Prime Minister says the Government will not negotiate a nationwide water rights settlement with Maori.

The group which attended yesterday's 100-strong hui in Ngaruawahia wanted John Key to re-think his position on the partial sale of state assets, including Mighty River Power.

But speaking to ONE News today, the PM said the demands would be unlikely to delay the sale any further.

Speaking in Tokoroa as he visited new sporting facilities, Key said he does not believe Maori leaders from yesterday's national hui are playing fair in their demands over negotiating a national settlement.

And he insisted there would be no such deal.

"No that won't be the case, I mean the Government has a very clear position, it believes no one owns water," he said.

But with the Government set on the sale, Maori leaders are considering going to court over the decision.

"It is inevitable that some of our people will go to court, it's inescapable," said water rights hui organiser Tuku Morgan.

"We think that collectivising, working together, is key to our future."

Earlier this month the Government announced it would delay the sale of up to 49% of Mighty River Power until next year.

It will now take a five week consultation period to meet with iwi with direct interests in the water used by the state-owned water company.

However, the group representing iwi big and small has voted to boycott those individual iwi consultations.

"We must not allow the Government to divide and rule us again," Maori King, Te Arikinui Kiingi Tuheitia, said.

Key said such a boycott would only hinder any subsequent legal challenge from Maori.

"That makes sense for us to go out in good faith and negotiate, consult with Maori, but if they choose not to be consulted that's up to them," he said.

The Maori Council is to meet in Auckland tomorrow to discuss how proprietary water rights might be recognised, and to decide how much time it will give the Government to come to the table before it proceeds with legal action.