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Full Steam Ahead: "Shares Plus" and Afghanistan Exit

Full Steam Ahead: "Shares Plus" and Afghanistan Exit

PM Press Conference 3 Sept 2012

Scoop Audio+Video+Photos

By Mark P. Williams



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Today the Prime Minister laid out the government's response to the Waitangi Tribunal recommendations regarding the sale of shares in Mighty River Power. He said that the government will be offering shares in 49% of Mighty River Power between March and June 2013.

In a prepared statement he discussed the Waitangi Tribunal's proposition of "Shares Plus" for Maori Iwi affected by the sale and outlined the reasons why the government does not believe that this is "necessary or desirable". The Prime Minister gave five reasons for his party's position:
- That it runs counter to the national interest to give any one group of shareholders greater rights;
- That almost every form of redress to Maori could be achieved through other means and "Shares Plus" were unnecessary;
- That "Shares Plus" was not a practical way for a company to deal with its shareholders;
- The "Shares Plus" idea might make the company less attractive to prospective investors;
- The Treaty obligations of the Crown are to be kept separate from the obligations of a company to its shareholders.

He went on to state that the government believed very firmly that their legal position on the sale of shares was a strong one but would open up a consultation period for affected Iwi to raise any other concerns that the government may not have thought of.

The Prime Minister stated that the government's emphasis remained on getting the best possible price for the shares and said that he believed that "Shares Plus" was not the answer. He said that the government did not support the idea of a national Hui on water rights or a pan-Iwi solution to the issue. The Prime Minister said several times that the Waitangi Tribunal viewed this issue in local terms for the Iwi immediately concerned and the government was intending to address the question on local and not national terms. He stated that "within Maoridom there are a number of views on this issue -- there is not one voice" and therefore ruled out the idea of a national settlement.

The PM emphasised several times during the course of discussion that the Crown were prepared to accept any genuine claims of rights and interests but was careful to state that the government's opinion as to what these were might differ considerably from that of the Maori Party or the Waitangi Tribunal.

Questions relating to the Waitangi Tribunal Recommendations

• The PM was asked whether the consultation period was a genuine consultation, given that the government appeared to be pressing ahead with its chosen course of action.
• The PM was asked if he knew how likely it was that the government would be taken to court over its decision?
• The PM was asked whether the government would be prepared to consider a co-governance model similar to that in effect over the Waikato River.
• The PM was asked what the costs of the delay were. He responded that it would cost "some millions, more than five but less than ten"
• The PM was then asked about whether this would have any impact on the case of Rio Tinto and Meridian regarding the Aluminium smelter. He said that this was a matter for Rio Tinto.
• The PM was asked if he had spoken directly to the Maori Party on the matter yet. He responded that because of a "miscommunication" regarding flight times he had not yet spoken directly to the Maori Party.

Other Questions

• The PM was asked whether the NZDF's earlier withdrawal date from Afghanistan had anything to do with the recent casualties. He said no, it was because of the up-grading of the runway which would be used by NZ troop carriers to exit the country which imposed a specific window for leaving.
• The PM was asked how much the NZDF troops were likely to be at risk of so called "green-on-blue" attacks by the Afghan forces they were training. He responded that NZ troops were less at risk from this because those they were working with were Hazara, who are "not keen on the Taliban".
• The PM was asked whether it was the case that the NZDF considered it had done the job it set out to do or was just leaving because it had spent ten years in Afghanistan and everyone else was leaving. He responded that he felt the NZDF had "absolutely" made a difference in Bamyan.
• On the subject of APEC the PM was asked whether it was the case that New Zealand would undertake a free trade agreement with Russia by the end of the year. He responded that it was likely that New Zealand would have free trade with several countries, including Taiwan and Russia by the end of the year.
• The PM was asked whether he felt there was any connection between rates of youth suicide and economic background. He said that he felt there were complex factors involved which needed to be addressed.

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