The announcement by Prime Minister John Key yesterday that the Government will delay the partial sale of Mighty River Power until next year came as a bit of a surprise.
There was fairly general consensus earlier yesterday that Mr Key would probably forge ahead with his plan to sell shares in state assets, starting with Mighty River Power. However, it seems as if he has hesitated because of opposition from Maori.
Mr Key went into the last election adamant that an asset sale programme was part of the Government's plan. When he won the election quite comfortably, he claimed that this gave him the mandate for the partial sale of assets.
At each step of the process, Mr Key and his Government have shown a determination to forge ahead with the process but the public mood seems to be shifting on this one. In the beginning, the feeling was that while there may be some people opposed to the sale, it would not deter Mr Key.
However, there has been a groundswell of opposition recently and last week's call by the Waitangi Tribunal for the Government to halt the partial sale of Mighty River Power increased the pressure even more. The tribunal said the partial privatisation would affect its ability to make redress to Maori rights in water.
It called for an urgent hui to find solutions to questions on how Maori rights over fresh water are recognised.
The tribunal issued its report on claims brought by the council and 10 hapu and iwi, which sought to delay the Government's partial asset sale programme until Maori claims over water were considered.
At first Mr Key said the tribunal's decision would not stop him - but a week is a long time in politics.
Obviously his political ally, the Maori Party, has put pressure on him to delay the sale and he has probably received Crown legal advice that there could be more pitfalls ahead. He has made the right decision and will use the time to consult more with Maori.
One can't help thinking that Mr Key may have painted himself into a corner on this one. He may find himself consulting more people than he originally thought he would have to. This is good for democracy but not necessarily good for Mr Key's plan to sell state assets.
Already his political foes, Labour and the Greens, are demanding that Mr Key consult all New Zealanders by holding a referendum on the subject. The Green Party is in the Keep Our Assets coalition, which has collected 240,000 signatures as it strives to get the 310,000 needed to trigger a citizens' initiated referendum.
The coalition launched a drive aiming to collect the remaining signatures by the end of next month. Mr Key would not have to listen to the referendum result but it would put even more pressure on him.
It is going to be an interesting few months for Mr Key.
Suddenly it does not seem like it is all smooth sailing for the National Government.
Our populist Prime Minister is probably aware of how much he has to lose if he gets this one wrong.
Only time will tell.