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Wednesday, February 1

Government proposals reduce rights in SOEs

The best way for Maori to retain established legal rights in state owned energy companies is to keep them in public ownership, Green Party Co-leader Metiria Turei said today.

The Government has released a consultation document to Maori that sets out three options in relation to Treaty of Waitangi provisions under the new mixed ownership model, all of which diminish or remove current rights under the State Owned Enterprises Act.

"The asset sales are lose-lose. All New Zealanders lose the asset and their clean energy and profit potential and Maori lose existing Treaty rights," said Green Party Co leader Metiria Turei.

"The only winners in these sales will be the large and primarily foreign-owned investors who will buy the assets.

"The only way to protect the rights of all New Zealanders in relation to the assets is to keep them one hundred percent in public ownership.

"The current law sets out a well-established obligation for SOEs to act in accordance with the Treaty. Just because some shareholdings may change does not mean that right should be dumped.

"Section 9 of the State Owned Enterprises Act led to one of the most important cases of Treaty law in New Zealand.

"To say the clause is symbolic and can be dumped ignores the very real legal rights section 9 has conveyed and can continue to convey if other cases are taken.

"The Government's proposal that only their 51 percent shareholding be covered by a Treaty obligation diminishes the current law and creates a legal nonsense.

"How can 51 percent of a company have to act in accordance with the Treaty and the other 49 percent not?

"The options to write a new clause or have no clause remove current rights for no good reason. The companies will still be majority owned by the Government and therefore should act in full, not part, accordance with the current law.

"This issue highlights the problems and complexity associated with these unpopular asset sales and is further reason why they should be stopped."