The Government knows that its policy to sell minority stakes in the power companies isn’t the most popular of policies. It is tolerated by most of their supporters, rather than beloved. The one thing which could turn that tolerance to opposition would be the Government doing a deal with Iwi to give them cheaper or even free shares in the power companies. They are keen for Iwi to invest in them (as Ngai Tahu has indicated they are keen to), but paying the same share price as “Mum and Dad” investors.
So the Government would have to say that they will not accept the findings of the Waitangi Tribunal. Any Government which retreated from the principle that no one owns the water (and the air) would face political oblivion at the next election.
This would then put huge pressure on the Maori Party. Would their members and activists want them to remain Ministers in a Government that ignored a Waitangi Tribunal recommendation? Their fear is that if they do not do something, then Mana would use the issue to try and win seats off them in 2014.
On this issue, can I recommend this excellent Q&A by Joshua Hitchcock on the Maori Council water claim.