The Maori Council is claiming victory after forcing a delay in
the controversial asset sales process.
The Government today backed away from a legal move to transfer the jurisdiction of Mighty River Power from the State-Owned Enterprises Act to the Public Finance (Mixed Ownership Model) Amendment Act to ready the SOE for partial sale next year.
Legal action over asset sales was always on the cards and today the Maori Council and a Waikato hapu headed to the High Court.
Their move prompted the Government to delay the next step in the asset sales process.
Lawyer for the Maori Council and Pouakani, Felix Geiringer, says it is a step towards victory.
"It is a long way between here and ultimate victory for the New Zealand Maori Council but this is the first of the necessary steps towards it," Geiringer said.
The Government was planning to get sign off from the Governor-General today to transfer the jurisdiction of Mighty River Power, enabling it to push ahead with the asset sale. But now that has been delayed until after the legal proceedings are over.
Finance Minister Bill English says it was always likely there was going to be court action.
"People who wanted to take court action needed some kind of trigger, so that trigger has been pulled today," English said.
Govt confident sales will proceed
The High Court case will be heard in the last week of November, and it could ultimately end up in the Supreme Court.
But the Government remains certain the partial sale of Mighty River Power will still happen within its deadline.
Asked if he is still confident the Government's March to June timetable is on track, Key said: "Yes, the courts have a history of understanding the timetable of the government, recognising that there is urgency around these issues and dealing with that."
Legal experts ONE News spoke to say the Government can still meet its target of selling Mighty River Power next year.
The asset sales process has already been delayed once - the initial sale date was the end of this year.
Asked how it will affect investor confidence, Key said: "I think it is a good thing because we can hopefully tidy all of these issues up before we finally take the companies to market."
The Government's coalition partner, the Maori Party, says it did not need to end up in court.
"I'm not saying it's a good thing because I think you can resolve these issues because you can go through a proper process to do that," said Tariana Turia, Maori Party co-leader.
The asset sales process is expected to cost the Maori Council around $400,000 in legal fees. It does not qualify for Legal Aid so iwi are having to chip in.
Labour says the Government's "desperation to sell our assets" has forced it into a prolonged legal battle when it should be focussing on jobs for New Zealanders and economic growth as Labour is doing.
"This is another stuff-up in the long-winded shambles that is the SOE sales," said Clayton Cosgrove, Labour's SOE spokesperson.
New Zealanders "are sick and tired of this" and want the
Government to focus on the big problems of job losses and
unemployment, Cosgrove said.
The sales process has been "shambles after shambles," he said.
"This delay means it's unlikely we will have a decision until
after Christmas, which makes their timeline of getting a sale in
March extremely unlikely.
"Only National and Act actually want these sales to go ahead. The vast majority of New Zealanders want their government to focus on creating better jobs for Kiwis.
"That's what Labour is doing. While National was planning its SOE court action last week David Shearer was laying out plans to create better jobs for New Zealanders. National has no ideas other than selling the family silver so they should start by listening to us."