Labour – waking on water or feigning sleep?

More analysis is emerging now the initial Waitangi Tribunal and water furore has calmed down.

Water row raises complex issues

The campaign against asset sales that Labour and the Greens are running has become dangerously mixed up with Maori claims to water ownership.

The Maori Council’s bid to delay the partial privatisation of four state-owned energy companies was at first seen as a welcome new angle of attack.

But the Waitangi Tribunal hearings, where the council is seeking a finding that the share sales should be put on hold until water ownership claims are resolved, is being used as a platform for radical demands.

The focus has shifted from the asset sales programme to whether or not Maori should own water.

I suspect initial hopes that it might simply add weight to the anti-asset sales campaign will have changed to major wariness of what might happen.

While Labour always enjoys divisions between the Government and its partners, it needs to be very careful about the way it handles the water ownership fiasco.

On this issue it can’t afford to be equivocal any more than the Government can.

And it hardly needs reminding just how seriously Maori rights issues can threaten a Government.

The NZMC presumably knew exactly what they wanted to achieve. Hopefully Labour have woken up from their anti-asset obsession. Or maybe they are feigning sleep, which mightn’t be a bad way to try and ride this out.