The Government last week concluded its 'shares plus' consultations with Māori with direct interests in the water and geothermal resources used by Mighty River Power, Meridian and Genesis. Shares plus refers to the concept, raised by the Waitangi Tribunal, that certain Māori interests be given particular rights and powers, above and beyond the rights of other shareholders, for example in relation to director appointments implemented by way of shareholder agreements.

Prime Minister John Key this week announced that no new information has come to light to change the Government's preliminary view that shares plus should not be progressed.

Specifically, the Government made the following findings based on its shares plus consultations:

  • Financial redress and input into resource management decisions can be provided in ways other than through a shares plus approach.
  • Appointing directors and exercising shareholder voting rights can also be achieved in other ways with the Crown, which will remain the controlling shareholder.
  • The Crown does not believe that providing iwi with special rights in making management decisions will work well and most submitters who considered the idea agreed.
  • Shares plus would create a potential conflict of interest within and between different iwi groups. And it would potentially weaken existing relationships between iwi groups and the SOEs.

Key also announced that Cabinet has confirmed the next steps for progressing the Government's share sales programme.

These steps are as follows:

  1. The Government will not engage in further negotiations on shares plus until after shares in the specified state-owned energy companies are sold.
  2. The Government will prepare an Order in Council to remove Mighty River Power from the State Owned Enterprises Act 1986, to be considered and approved by Cabinet and Executive Council on Tuesday 23 October.
  3. Government officials will be directed to continue to work towards a sale of up to 49 per cent of the shares in Mighty River Power between March and June 2013.

Mr Key confirmed that the Government intends to offer up to 49% of shares in Mighty River Power for sale during the second quarter of 2013, "subject to market conditions".

Key also acknowledged that these latest announcements might spur court action from the Māori Council or others.