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Maori Council takes challenge to Supreme Court

Published: 5:32AM Friday February 01, 2013 Source: ONE News

A last ditch effort to block the Government's partial sale of Mighty River Power is underway in the Supreme Court.

The Maori Council is proceeding with an appeal in the country's highest court after a bid to stop the appeal failed in the High Court late last year.

If the appeal fails, the sale of up to 49% of Mighty River Power will go ahead, paving the way for another three energy companies to be partially sold by the Government.

Yesterday in court, Queen's Counsel Colin Carruthers, acting on behalf of the Maori Council, said there was nothing in the appeal that challenged the sovereignty of Parliament.

He challenged the earlier High Court decision that the courts were unable to overrule the Parliamentary decision to sell state assets.

"The fundamental importance of the Treaty is such that when Parliament creates a power it can only be used when consistent with the principles of the Treaty," said Carruthers.

Carruthers faced tough questioning on whether the Government could still compensate Maori for water rights if the partial sale proceeds.

Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias raised the idea that the Government could protect Maori interests by floating a smaller portion of state companies.

"So a protective mechanism might be that the Crown will not divest itself or only 25% of the shares," said Elias.

However, Crown lawyer David Goddard argued the Government has plenty of ways to deal with Maori water claims in the future.

"The Crown has carefully considered the various tools that are in its tool box for right's recognition and redress."

Carruthers said compensation for Maori must be more than financial.

"It is essential to understand the difference between money and Mana. Mana endows the holder with authority over the water resource, this includes the right to charge for use, money does not."

The hearing wraps up today.