Wednesday, February 27, 2013


The Supreme Court has dismissed the Maori Council's appeal against asset sales. Reading the full judgement, the Maori Council were in fact successful in their argument that the treaty clause applied and that therefore the decision to sell was reviewable. But the Supreme Court found that the sale would not materially impair the government's ability to provide redress for claims. On the financial side of things they are undoubtedly correct. But the most important form of redress is not financial, but regulatory: granting Maori more say in the allocation of their water, or the right to royalties from the use of their rivers. And on that, the court shows a lot more faith in the government than I do. They're bound to, since it is an inherently political question and they can't be seen to doubt Parliament's will. But the fact of the matter is that the moment those shares are sold, the government creates deep-pocketed opponents of such regulatory reform, some of whom will be able to use international free trade agreements to argue that it is an "expropriation" of "their" (stolen) property. And this cannot but have a chilling effect on the willingness of the government to provide proper redress.

If we want to stop this process, we now have two options. The first is the referendum campaign, which now has 390,000 signatures. While the timing means it is unlikely to stop the government from selling Mighty River power into the claws of its rich cronies, a strong showing may present a sufficiently credible electoral threat to dissuade them from selling any more of our assets (in that National backbenchers facing losing their seats will be less willing to support such a move).

But what we really need is for the opposition to stand up and make it clear that this is a theft from the New Zealand public, and that they will reverse it by forcibly renationalising any stolen property, at a loss to the thieves. National can't sell if there are no buyers, and no-one will buy if they will make a loss. Labour is quite willing to make such pronouncements on charter schools, and in the past on ACC. They should do it for stolen power companies too.