Crown lawyer Paul Radich faced strong questions in his opening of the urgent Waitangi Tribunal hearing on Friday. Radich, a former Izard Weston and Minter Ellison litigator, said it wasn't necessary to determine the ownership issue yet.
Radich has worked as a disputes resolution and litigation lawyer for nearly 30 years and authored textbooks on judicial review and public law and is well experienced in handling the barbs and accusations thrown about in court, or tribunals.
The current Waitangi hearing has been exacerbated by Prime Minister John Key, who outraged Maori and caused concern over sub judice for his comments that no one can own water and that the Tribunal's recommendations are not binding. Stuff reports:
Lawyer Paul Radich told the Tribunal it was not necessary for the issue of Maori claims of water ownership be dealt with before the partial sale of state owned energy companies.
Speaking to media outside the hearing, Radich said it was accepted that Maori did have rights and interest in water.
"But what the Crown says is whatever they are, and there is a need to determine them and to give voice to them, is not affected by the sale of a minority shareholding in a power generating SOE."
That was because the SOEs operate under resource consent which gives limited rights for a limited period, and a shareholding was a very limited right in a company, he said.
"For those reasons the Crown says that the sale of the shares do not affect the important work that it has to do to determine, to think about, recognition of rights and interest in water."
Tribunal members asked Radich about Key's belief that Maori did not own water.
He said he could not know what Key was thinking.
Maori Council lawyer Donna Hall said the it was hard to ignore the strong evidence given over the past four days.
"They're not claiming to own the heavens and the rains, what they are saying is this stream right outside our marae that has always feed our people. We have used it and looked after it. We say that we have an interest for this particular stream."