[Sitting date: 01 August 2012. Volume:682;Page:4151. Text is incorporated into the Bound Volume.]
Hon TARIANA TURIA (Co-Leader—Māori Party) to the
Minister of Finance: Did the Minister of Māori Affairs discuss with him how the Crown would meet its Treaty obligation with respect to the Mixed Ownership Model?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance)
: Yes, the Minister of Māori Affairs has discussed that issue frequently with me. This year the most significant of those discussions was earlier in the year when the Minister of Māori Affairs discussed with me and other Ministers the need to carry section 9 from the State-Owned Enterprises Act into the Public Finance Act in order to retain the obligation of the Crown to meet its obligations under the Treaty. It is our view, of course, that the part-sale of shares in these companies does not compromise the Government’s Treaty obligations or its ability to settle any particular claims that have been put forward.
Hon Tariana Turia: Is the Minister satisfied with the assurances of the Minister of Māori Affairs regarding protection of article 2 Treaty rights, and did his advice contradict that of water claimants who met with the Minister?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: If the Minister means did the Minister of Māori Affairs seek assurances about the Crown’s intention to protect article 2 Treaty rights, then he certainly did and those assurances have been given. In fact, the Government has gone to considerable lengths to ensure that it fully understands those rights, partly on the encouragement of the Māori Party, and to assure itself, and the Māori Party, and claimants that the sale of shares will not compromise the Government’s ability to protect those article 2 rights. I would assume that the Minister of Māori Affairs has passed on those assurances to water claimants, and I know that in a number of cases those claimants are keen to get on with discussions with the Crown to have their claims resolved, and are not participating in the action in the tribunal, and are not threatening subsequent court action, because they believe that discussion with the Crown is much more likely to see their claims resolved.
Hon Parekura Horomia: Did the Minister of Māori Affairs receive Crown Law advice regarding the effect of the Treaty clause in the mixed ownership model legislation and its ability to protect Māori interests in water?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: You would need to ask the Minister about that. In my experience, the Minister of Māori Affairs does not always agree with Crown Law advice and often takes a more assertive approach to ensure that, whatever the legal advice, the Government fully recognises article 2 and article 3 rights and is committed to protecting those rights. In fact, I think any number of claimants are starting to see that working directly with the Crown over those rights can be a more constructive process of settling them than going through the courts and opening up potentially years of litigation over some novel legal concepts that may not ever be resolved.
Hon Tariana Turia: What was the Government’s response to advocacy from the Minister of Māori Affairs that shareholders of State-owned enterprises should do nothing to prevent the Government from meeting its obligations under the Treaty of Waitangi?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Government’s response to the Minister may not have been completely satisfactory to him, but that is part of the healthy discussions in a coalition. The Minister was seeking legislation that the Crown bind the private shareholders in the same way that the Crown is. We decided not to do that, as the member may be aware. The fundamental Treaty obligations are between iwi and the Crown, not private shareholders. The Crown assumes all the obligations of meeting whatever flows from the settlement of claims in respect of water, or these assets, or any other assets that claimants might succeed in obtaining.