In all the discussion over Maori claims to water rights, the Government’s position has been consistent and clear.

In common law no-one owns water.  Maori do have rights and interests in water that are being addressed, and will continue to be addressed, through the Treaty process when dealing with historical claims and by other mechanisms, iwi by iwi.

We already have the Waikato River Settlement, made law in 2010, which allows for both Waikato-Tainui iwi and the Government to operate a co-governance model for the management and maintenance of the Waikato river.

The partial sale of Mighty River Power early next year does not impact on the Crown’s ability to recognise Maori rights and interests in water.

The Government’s preferred focus is to develop models for the control and management of water that reflect relevant Maori interests.  We already have those processes underway, through dialogue with iwi leaders and through the Government’s Fresh Start for Fresh Water process.

This is the position we have taken to the Māori Council.

The issue is not about the Government against Māori, or Māori against Government.  In fact, within Maoridom there are differing views on the position taken by the Maori Council.

The report of the Waitangi Tribunal offered a concept called “shares plus”, which it suggested would address this issue.    This proposal, in a nutshell, would give iwi more rights than other shareholders.

Cabinet carefully considered the Waitangi Tribunal report before deciding  that “shares plus” is neither necessary nor desirable.

The Government is to undertake a short period of consultation with relevant iwi on “shares plus” to ensure we have considered all possible aspects of the concept.  This will be done over the next five weeks.

Despite the delay, the Government is firmly committed to the share offer programme.  The alteration to the timeframe for the initial public offering of Mighty River Power does not change our commitment to providing investment opportunities to New Zealanders.

The Government is still committed to providing investment opportunities to New Zealanders through our share offer programme.

It’s good for savers, because it opens up new opportunities to invest in large, local companies. It’s good for taxpayers because we expect to generate between $5 billion and $7 billion in proceeds, which will be invested in new public assets like modern school and hospitals. That’s money we don’t have to borrow from overseas lenders.

The sooner we can start it, the better for everyone.