Maori Party MP Te Ururoa Flavell says there's a chance the government's asset sales may not go ahead this year after a Waitangi Tribunal finding that Maori have rights over water.
The government campaigned in last year's election to partially privatise state-owned companies and it wants to sell off 49 per cent of Meridian Energy, Genesis and Mighty River Power, all of which make some use of water.
But in an interim report on a Maori Council action, the tribunal says Maori have residual property rights to water under the Treaty of Waitangi and these need to be sorted before state-owned energy companies are partially privatised.
"In practical terms, the Crown will not be able to provide a meaningful form of rights recognition for Maori in respect of its water bodies after it sells the shares to private investors," it says.
Prime Minister John Key has said the tribunal's recommendations are non-binding but the issue is a concern for the Maori Party, one of its support parties.
Speaking on TV3's The Nation on Saturday, Mr Flavell said "I'm not too sure" when asked if he thought there would be any asset sales this year.
"There's a clear line that says let's have the parties get together; take some time out to consider the recommendations, because they are about a starting point for further dialogue and move towards that sort of solution."
Mr Flavell said it wouldn't be anything new if the government chose to ignore the tribunal's recommendations "because a number of recommendations from the Waitangi Tribunal have been snubbed by the previous governments".
The Maori Council said it was likely to go to court if the government chose to ignore the tribunal's findings.