By Metiria Turei
Lengthy, expensive court battles over water rights are inevitable as the Government continues to steamroll over the Waitangi Tribunal and Māori views in its drive to push through asset sales.
On Monday a hui of iwi leaders, the Māori Council and other groups got together to talk about the water issue and decided to ask the Government to work with a representative group. John Key rejected that idea.
He seeks to divide and conquer Māori as he continues to show contempt for the Waitangi Tribunal process. He demanded it report back early and previously said he may well ignore its findings.
It’s ridiculous that the Key Government is selling the assets at all and the rush to do so is because it knows the policy is unpopular and wants to get the sales moving so they are not still going on during the next election.
The other reason for haste is it has already banked the short-term profits in its last budget and it needs the money.
The irony is the price the Key Government will get for selling off the assets will be lower than it could have been because of the way it has handled the process.
There is no way buyers will pay top dollar for assets that are under the threat of legal action because the water rights issue had not been resolved in advance.
The Government is not looking for an enduring solution. It wants a quick sale and will do anything to achieve that while ignoring the consequences.
However it has failed in its attempt to divide Māori, and to pitch Māori against Pākehā. Most New Zealanders are united in their opposition to asset sales.
That’s because they know a one off profit doesn’t make sense when you have an asset that makes good yearly returns.
If the Government was interested in what the public thought about its plans it would wait for a referendum on the sales. Once the required signatures are gathered to force the referendum it can be held, possibly as early as this summer.
The Key Government should taihoa to at least hear what the public and the tribunal say. But, really the only sensible answer is to drop the plan altogether and look at long-term answers to the country’s economic problems.
Metiria Turei is the Co-Leader of the Green Party