Waikato Tainui calls for assets to stay in NZ ownership

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Giving Maaori the opportunity to take stakes in some of New Zealands biggest SOEs could be one way for the Government to implement its mixed ownership model without risking significant chunks of strategic assets falling into foreign hands, says Tukoroirangi Morgan, Chair of Waikato-Tainuis Te Arataura.

I support the Governments efforts to look at ways to address our net foreign debt mountain. High interest rates, high exchange rates and an underperforming domestic economy tend to hit Maaori the hardest, says Mr Morgan.

However, we need to make sure that we dont repeat the mistakes of the past when large chunks of the New Zeoland economy were sold off mainly to foreign investors who then screwed massive profits out of them, at the expense of domestic investors.

Tranzrail, Telecom, Contact Energy these are not pretty stories.

Mr Morgan said the difference between then and today was the presence of Iwi with Treaty settlement cash, looking for safe, stable, long term investment opportunities to deliver steady, inter-generational returns to fund tribal initiatives.

Im not suggesting that Maaori be offered assets at discounted rates or on terms that would be more favourable than those available to local mum & dad investors.

We already have an agreement in place with the Government giving us first right of refusal over the Huntly power station. Waikato-Tainui would be very keen to invest in Mighty River Power too.

The real benefit of Iwi becoming cornerstone shareholders in these companies is that we are not going anywhere. We have nowhere to go. Our investment strategy incorporates the principle of kaitiaki guardianship of assets for future generations. And dividends would stay in this country not be repatriated overseas to be enjoyed by foreigners.

Mr Morgan says allowing Iwi to take stakes in the SOEs under discussion would allay another of the concerns raised over the Governments plans.

Iwi will not only be investors and shareholders our people will also be customers. There is no way that we would support a move to lift electricity prices, for example, to extract higher returns for shareholders when we would be hurting our own people who struggle to pay their power bills as it is.

Our view would almost certainly be that we would rather forgo additional short-term profits in return for slightly lower, stable returns and the knowledge that we were not gouging our own people.

This is a benefit that should not be overlooked and is a very strong argument in favour of partial Iwi ownership. Even New Zealand-based funds would be looking to maximise returns to their investors. Iwi would straddle both sides and could serve as an excellent balancing mechanism between the need to generate adequate (not extortionate) returns on investment and providing a product or service that remains affordable for everyone.

I would tend to agree with Prime Minister John Keys comment that: The way for New Zealand to get ahead is to sell more to the rest of the world provided selling more does mean assets that should rightfully and sensibly stay in full New Zealand ownership.

I have gone on record over Waikato-Tainuis opposition to land sales to foreigners. The same goes for any move that would allow foreigners to take ownership stakes in key infrastructure sectors such as power generation, said Mr Morgan.

ENDS.
Waikato Tainui comprises 33 hapuu, 68 marae and 58,000 tribal members. In 1865 colonial forces crossed the Mangataawhiri River and invaded the Waikato. More than 1.2 million acres was confiscated and the people of Waikato were forced into an exile that lasted 20 years.
In 1995 the first Waikato-Tainui settlement over lands was signed with the Crown. In 2008 the Waikato River Deed of Settlement was signed, with enhanced co-management arrangements finalised in 2009. The completion of the Waikato River Claim will see the tribe having a co-governance role over New Zealands largest river. Negotiations over the tribes remaining outstanding claims including West Coast harbours are expected to commence over the next year.
In 2010 Waikato-Tainui reported a net profit of $18.6 million and revenue growth of 11.5 per cent. Total assets were $644 million. Grants totalling $4.4 million were paid to 1766 individuals and groups.

For further information contact:
Kirk MacGibbon
Waikato-Tainui Communications Unit.
Email: kirkm@tainui.co.nz.
Mob: 0211 355 969

1 COMMENT

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