Just days after the Maori Council lodged its High Court challenge to the Government's asset sale plans, the leader of one of the country's richest iwi says he has not yet decided whether or not he will support the scheme.
Speaking with TV ONE's Q+A this morning, chairman of Ngai Tahu Kaiwhakahaere, Mark Solomon said that he will make his decision on the issue once all "data is put on the table".
"I've no doubt that when all the data is put on the table, our holdings corporation will do a due diligence. And if the mixed-ownership model gives a return that's within the hurdle rates that we expect them to get, then they will make a decision of whether to invest or not.
"Until then, it's nothing but a concept," he said.
Last week, representatives of the Maori Council filed a claim in the High Court in Wellington, seeking a review in court after the Government revealed it would ignore the Waitangi Tribunal's "shares plus" scheme
Solomon said that he did not think the sell-down of Meridian would affect Ngai Tahu's rights and interests to water, but he admitted that he was personally a "bit leery" of selling parts of New Zealand's SOEs.
Inevitably, Ngai Tahu's decision would come back to the potential return on investment, he indicated.
"We have a fiduciary responsibility on behalf of the Ngai Tahu families to manage the assets well and to get a good return. That's our responsibility," said Solomon.
However, he also told Q+A that although Ngai Tahu had not made a decision about asset-sales, Maori water rights are a separate issue.
"I do not believe that you can separate water from the waterbed. Do I believe that Maori have an ownership in the sense of a fee simple title? No, I don't. That is a Pakeha concept," he said.
Solomon also said that he did not necessarily agree with a Waitangi Tribunal statement which indicated that the Crown will be "in breach of Treaty principles if it proceeds to sell shares without first providing Maori with a remedy or rights recognition or at least its ability to do so."
In response, Solomon said that "the Government has publicly acknowledged and the Tribunal backed it up that the sell-down of 49% does not prevent the Government from addressing the rights and the interests of Maori."
Solomon said he believes there will eventually be a "win-win" model which "gives Maori access to water alongside the rest of the nation so that we can be part of the economy of New Zealand."
"What we're saying is we want input into the governance, into the management of the water systems. We do believe that we have a right to an allocation of water.
"But we do not - and this is the Ngai Tahu perspective: we cannot stand up and ask the government to recognise our rights and interests in water by advocating the taking away of rights and interests of other people," said Solomon.
When questioned why Ngai Tahu have not pledged their support for the council, as Tainui and the Maori King have, Solomon put it down to a natural diversity in opinion.
"There are 500,000, close to 600,000, Maori in New Zealand. I've never known any sector or community to have a unanimous view. We are like any other people. We will have varied views, and that is all of our right," he said.