Dec. 18 (BusinessDesk) - The New Zealand Maori Council has been granted leave to appeal a High Court ruling dismissing its application for a review of Cabinet decisions relating to the sale of up to 49 percent of MightyRiverPower.
In the Supreme Court today, Justices Sian Elias, John McGrath, William Young, Robert Chambers and Susan Glazebrook granted the council leave to appeal direct to the court rather than through the Court of Appeal. The appeal has been set down to be heard on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1
Earlier this month in the High Court, Justice Ronald Young found there were no legal grounds to review three crucial Cabinet decisions relating to the decision to sell down the state-owned power company because of outstanding tribal claims to water rights.
Going straight to the Supreme Court may speed up the process, improving the government's chances of meeting its June 30 deadline to float a minority shareholding of MRP on the NZX.
The Maori Council and other parties had sought judicial review to overturn Cabinet decision-making, an area well-tested in existing case law relating to the Treaty of Waitangi and Maori proprietary rights. If successful, the action could have stopped the government's unpopular asset sales programme.
The asset sales are being sold politically as a key part of the government's capital expenditure programme. Without the proceeds of asset sales, investments in KiwiRail and irrigation schemes, among other priorities yet to be announced, either won't go ahead or will require unwelcome new government borrowing.
The government had argued that, as majority shareholder, its obligations under the Treaty are not extinguished in the event of a successful claim, and any costs as the result of a Maori grievance settlement would be fully borne by the government as the Crown and Treaty of Waitangi partner, rather than as a shareholder in the company.