65 iwi are to be offered the chance to take shares in state owned enterprises.
The stakes will be available to tribes that have not yet settled their Treaty claims.
The Government says the scheme allows iwi more flexibility about how their settlement money is invested.
They would be able to get the shares up front - ahead of their final Treaty resolution with the Crown.
This is misleading. Iwi, minus a handful of iwi leaders, are not asking for market shares at market prices. Most iwi are asking for 1) the recognition of their water rights and 2) compensation for the use and breach of those rights. Market shares address neither point.
Shares-plus, an idea the government rejected, represented an adequate remedy on the second point. However, any move on the second point is largely pointless when the first point is left moot.
Shares-on-credit are an attempt to co-opt pre-settlement iwi and mitigate the government’s legal risk. From a political perspective, the iwi leaders who support the offer are salivating too early. The overton window keeps shifting. Rewind one year, preferential shares (which are really what shares on credit are) were considered unacceptable, or radical on the overton spectrum. Today, the offer is acceptable on the spectrum. Fast forward six months, say post a court win for the NZMC, shares-plus might be considered sensible on the spectrum – a compromise in exchange for Maori allowing the sales to go ahead. With this in mind, iwi would do well to wait before jumping at the government's half-baked offer.
In any event, the most important thing is that the pre-settlement iwi do not let the offer create a wedge between themselves and Maori seeking the recognition of our rights rather than commercial redress. Even Winston Peters is calling the government’s offer “divide and rule” and pointing out that “it’s designed to try and corrode support for the Maori Council's action”. Wedge politics, essentially.
The most important thing is rights recognition. Commercial redress is a secondary concern. That’s why I support the NZMC’s court action. That’s why iwi should. And all praise to the Maori Party for supporting rights recognition before commercial redress. Oh, and iwi who are willing to let the sales proceed would do well to remember that 88% of Maori oppose, key word oppose, asset sales. Only 8% support the sales. Something to keep in mind.