Video | Agriculture | Confidence | Economy | Energy | Employment | Finance | Media | Property | RBNZ | Science | SOEs | Tax | Technology | Telecoms | Tourism | Transport | Search

 


Supreme Court decision opens way for privatisations

Supreme Court decision opens way for privatisations

By Pattrick Smellie

Feb. 27 (BusinessDesk) - The government will be racing the clock to try and sell up to 49 percent of state-owned electricity company MightyRiverPower now that the Supreme Court has dismissed attempts by Maori claimants to settle Treaty of Waitangi claims to freshwater rights first.

The unanimous decision of the five judge full bench of the Supreme Court clears the last legal hurdle to the MRP sale, which the government had hoped would be concluded before last Christmas.

However, whether it can meet its own timetable and get the MRP share float done ahead of the May 16 Budget remains to be seen. If delayed until after that date, MRP would have to restate its most recent six monthly accounts as they must be no older than 135 days to meet US securities regulations.

The involvement of US-based investment houses in the float is seen as important to ensuring it is well-supported, although no private shareholder will be allowed to hold more than 10 percent of MRP, while the government will retain a 51 percent controlling stake.

The sale may raise in the order of $1.5 billion and is a lynchpin of the government's economic strategy, despite attracting strong public disapproval. A petition to force a non-binding citizens' referendum is close to being lodged at Parliament, although there is no obligation to hold such a poll before the sale has occurred.

The Supreme Court gave Maori claimants a small bone by rejecting findings last year in the High Court that the Cabinet decision to sell a stake in MRP could not be judicially reviewed.

The High Court did have that power, Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias told a packed courtroom across the street from the parliamentary complex, where politicians of all stripes were waiting to hear the decision.

However, the court unanimously dismissed the appeal's fundamental premise that partially privatising a power company using water for hydro and geothermal power generation would "materially impair" the government's capacity to offer redress for Treaty breaches relating to freshwater rights.

"We are prepared to accept that privatisation may limit the scope to provide some forms of redress which are currently at least theoretically possible," said Elias. "But whether that amounts to 'material impairment', regard must be had to a) the assurances given by the Crown, b) the extent to which such options are substantially in prospect, c) the capacity of the Crown to provide equivalent and meaningful redress, and d) the proven willingness and ability of the Crown to provide such redress."

The court also found the urgent round of consultation undertaken by the government in the latter part of last year was adequate.

New Zealand Maori Council lawyer Donna Hall conceded outside the court the decision would allow asset sales to proceed, but important principles relating to appropriate consultation and redress had been confirmed.

Labour Party leader David Shearer said the government should cancel the sales anyway, given the depth of public opposition.

“Regardless of the Supreme Court decision, there is still a great deal of uncertainty around this plan," he said in a statement. "Compensation may have to be paid to iwi, the concern around Tiwai Point hangs over the electricity sector, Solid Energy has collapsed, electricity demand is predicted to remain flat so selling our energy companies at the bottom of the market is just foolish."

(BusinessDesk)

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines

 

Restrictions Lifted: No Further Tau Flies Found

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) confirms that all restrictions on the movement of fruit and vegetables in Manurewa, Auckland, due to the Tau fly, have been lifted as of 2.26pm on Sunday 7 February. More>>

Crowdfinding: Awaroa Beach To Become Public Land If Appeal Succeeds

Conservation Minister Maggie Barry says a privately-owned beach will become part of the Abel Tasman National Park if an online crowdfunding campaign to buy it succeeds... More>>

ALSO:

Meat Workers Union: Waitangi Mondayisation Flaunted By Large Employer Of Maori

At the AFFCO Talley owned meat plant in Rangiuru, the company has resorted to bullying and threats... saying they could be disciplined and their union sued for an unlawful strike if workers exercise their rights to a paid day off tomorrow. More>>

Earlier:

ETS Review: Modelling Documents Released

Three technical documents are being released to help New Zealanders engage with the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) review, Climate Change Minister Paula Bennett says. More>>

ALSO:

Northland: Govt Plan Targets Transport, Web, Maori Assets

The government has released a 10-year plan to attract investors and lift economic growth in Northland, a region that perennially underperforms the rest of the country even while being endowed with natural beauty, productive land, minerals, a potential workforce, scope for manufacturing, forestry and aquaculture, and proximity to Auckland. More>>

ALSO:

Statistics: Unemployment Rate Falls To 5.3 Percent

The unemployment rate fell to 5.3 percent in the December 2015 quarter (from 6.0 percent), Statistics New Zealand said today. This is the lowest unemployment rate since March 2009. There were 16,000 fewer people unemployed than in the September ... More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Business
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news