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The Maori Council's challenge to the Government's partial asset sales plan is likely to bypass the Court of Appeal and go directly to the Supreme Court early next year in order to meet the looming deadline for the sale of Mighty River Power.
The council's High Court bid to block the Government's "mixed ownership model" until a mechanism to address Maori proprietary water rights is established came to an end yesterday in Wellington after a two-and-half-day hearing.
Justice Ronald Young, who could delay the Government's asset sales plan for months if not years by finding in favour of the council, said he was likely to issue his judgment before Christmas.
Both the Maori Council and the Prime Minister, John Key, have said they will probably lodge an appeal if they lose.
But with the Government planning on selling up to 49 per cent of Mighty River some time between March and June next year and the courts taking a month-long break in the new year, time is tight for appeal hearings.
In his affidavit to the court, Treasury Deputy Secretary John Crawford said all appeals would have to be completed by February 18 in order to meet the Government's preferred timetable or by March 11 to have any chance of selling Mighty River shares before the end of June.
Any delay would create a big hole in the Government's expected revenues and result in increased debt.