Govt doesn’t want to lump investors with Treaty obligations

Article – BusinessDesk

Feb. 1 (BusinessDesk) – The government doesn’t want its Treaty of Waitangi obligations to spill over on to private investors in its asset-sale plan and will put forward its preferred option to iwi in a series of consultation hui over the next two weeks.

Govt doesn’t want to lump private investors with Treaty obligations: English

By Paul McBeth

Feb. 1 (BusinessDesk) – The government doesn’t want its Treaty of Waitangi obligations to spill over on to private investors in its asset-sale plan and will put forward its preferred option to iwi in a series of consultation hui over the next two weeks.

Finance Minister Bill English told media in Wellington the government’s treaty obligations can’t fall on potential investors in the state-owned energy companies flagged for partial privatisation. The government today released a consultation document for iwi on how it plans to change legislation to enable its mixed-ownership model.

“Private individuals aren’t obliged to carry the burden of the Crown’s obligations, that’s our job,” English said. “We make that pretty clear in the document.”

The legislative change to set the asset-sale programme in motion would have to remove the target companies’ obligations to consult with Maori on Treaty issues under section 9 of the Act, as it couldn’t bind private investors. That prompted the Maori Party to warn it would consider quitting its government partnership if the section is changed.

The paper gives three options on how the government can express its Treaty obligations, which are to include section 9 of the State Owned Enterprise Act in new legislation in relation to the Crown’s shareholding in the companies, write a more specific Treaty clause describing how the government will meet its obligations, or exclude general Treaty clause.

English said the government needs to ensure certainty for investors, but he expects any differences with iwi will be bridged during the consultation process.

“We’ll get the opportunity to talk about the particulars, because in the end this boils down to what interests Maori might have in these government assets, and how the government ought to express its obligation,” he said. “This is a soluble problem, there’s a range of alternatives there, which I think could end up being satisfactory to the parties.”

The consultation hui won’t address specific investments, which will come up during the initial public offering process, well-established policy processes such as fresh water or Resource Management Act reform, or Treaty settlements.

The paper says the government hasn’t decided whether it will reserve the right to appoint the chairman of the partially-owned companies in the same way it has for Air New Zealand.

(BusinessDesk)

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