A Maori Mugging over Water

It appears that we may be set to be mugged again  by Maori, this time over water:

The row over a Treaty of Waitangi clause in legislation paving the way for the sale of the state-owned power companies has turned into an iwi bid for an ownership stake.

The Maori Council yesterday described that as its “elegant solution” to the looming “section 9” standoff after filing a claim with the Waitangi Tribunal over freshwater and geothermal resources.

The claim is an attempt to halt the sale of the SOEs until their claims over water ownership are heard and as pressure for a financial settlement grows.

Prime Minister John Key yesterday insisted it would not slow the sales process for the SOEs – but the Waitangi Tribunal claim is likely to be just the first shot in a battle that could ultimately see the Court of Appeal asked to intervene.

Maori Council chairman Maanu Paul said he expected the tribunal to hear its case urgently and while the tribunal’s recommendations are not binding, it could recommend iwi seek redress through the Court of Appeal.

But the preferred option of claimants appears to be direct negotiation between the Crown and iwi – with the decades-old fisheries settlement held up as one model. The so- called Sealords deal delivered Maori a 20 per cent stake in the fisheries and hundreds of millions of dollars to invest in the industry.

This is nothing short of the time honoured tradition of stand-over. Stephen Franks calls it:

The Waitangi Tribunal claims announced by the New Zealand Maori Council are unapologetically a hold-up. They have little apparent legal merit. But on form to date I predict a reasonable chance they will succeed for what they are – a legal mugging to lever free SOE shares out of an easy-touch government.

Legal proceedings are frequently purely tactical. Even meritless claims can work well to gain time, and to give the appearance of justification for procedural coercion.

Courts are so slow and so complex and unpredictable (with a Supreme Court anxious to make its mark on history) that a hold-up demand can work brilliantly. Maori claimants know they are in practice exempt from the damages for an improper injunction that inhibit vexatious litigation for everyone else.

A tactical demand, however unfair, gives Maori the time under the spotlight needed to get a government to pay rather than fight. Maori have little or no early downside. There is no one to call them to account if they crank up the political heat with fanciful explanations of their legal position.

At the rate that the usual Maori suspects are cutting up rough ACT is set for a resurgence in popularity.

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.