Photo courtesy of Walton Walker
Maori land owners had the opportunity to express their ideas to a panel charged with the responsibility of reviewing the legal mechanisms which underpin Maori land tenure at a hui held at Pakirikiri marae in Tokomaru Bay recently.
Within the East Coast region approximately 30,000 hectares of whenua is made up of Ngati Porou/ Maori owned land. Two decades ago the Te Ture Whenua Maori Act (TTWMA) 1993 was passed in Parliament, and last year the government appointed an independent panel to review this legislation.
The objective of the review was to help empower Maori land owners to achieve their aspirations, while enabling the better utilisation of their land. Recent statistics have shown that although 20% of Maori land is well-developed with potential for further growth, 80% is currently under-utilised or may be underperforming. After reviewing extensive research on the subject, and meeting with selected stakeholders the panel came up with a discussion document which was presented to those who attended the Tokomaru Bay hui.
Five propositions are outlined in the report which addresses some of the issues faced by Maori land owners. These issues were identified by the panel as: empowerment, engagement, governance, institutions and fragmentation. Among the korero discussed by participants at the hui included kaupapa familiar to many. The difficulties of obtaining concensus among shareholders and compounding fragmentation were mentioned.
Dr Apirana Mahuika, chairman of Te Runanganui o Ngati Porou attended the hui, and a submission was tabled by his lawyer James Johnston. Mr Johnston also spoke to the submission which commented on the 5 propositions by the Review Panel.
Dr Mahuika believes the Review has been long overdue, and has the potential to empower landowners to make decisions affecting their lands. “ Many have spoken often about the current law, and this review is the opportunity for them to raise those concerns. We are now in a different time where our farming practices and technology are no longer those of the pre- 1900s and 1980s."
"Accordingly these differences should find some expressions in the Review. Large holdings are not the only way forward in terms of land utilisation. Currently we are exploring how the small and large blocks can co-exist together, and therefore provide benefits to the land owner of these lands. The relationships between the small and large blocks will ensure the retention of lands to owners. As a consequence of this relationship it becomes obligatory on us to establish effective land use projects on our lands which in turn, ensures benefits to owners that will enable them to meet their responsibilities- whatever these may be.”
Ingrid Collins, the Chairperson of Whangara B 5 Incorporation also attended the hui and was involved as part of a wider working group led by Ta Henare Ngata during the late 1980s and the early 1990s in the formation of the Te Ture Whenua legislation.
“I congratulate the work Matanuku Mahuika (Chairperson of TTWMA Review Panel) and his committee have done on this document. Having been involved in the creation of the legislation, I know it is not a task that can be done overnight. But it is now time to bring us into the new century, and many advances have been made by various Trusts and Incorporations. It is also time to release some of the constraints that the legislation has encroached on them. Parts of the proposals have given us a view of how that may be achieved.”
Submissions are currently being sought by the Review Panel about their discussion document. The close off for written submission has now been extended to Friday 14th of June. To obtain a copy of the report contact the Te Puni Kokiri office in Gisborne or visit their website www.tpk.govt.nz.
Ingrid Collins is interested in working with other interested Maori Landowners within the Tairawhiti region to create submissions to the Review Panel. She can be contacted on: 0274 408 580. The Ture Whenua Maori Act Review panel will be holding another hui in the Tairawhiti region to talk to Maori landowners about their discussion document. It will be held at 9am on Tuesday 11th June, Mangatu Blocks Incorporation, 266-268 Childers Rad, Gisborne.
TE TURE WHENUA MĀORI ACT 1993 REVIEW PANEL PROPOSITIONS
Proposition 1: Utilisation of Māori land should be able to be determined by a majority of engaged owners
An engaged owner is defined as an owner who has actively demonstrated their commitment to their ownership interest by exercising a vote either in person or by proxy or nominee. Engaged owners should be able to make decisions (excluding sale or other permanent disposition) without the need for endorsement by the Māori Land Court.
Proposition 2: All Māori land should be capable of utilisation and effective administration
Where owners are either not engaged or are unable to be located, an external manager or administrator may be appointed to manage under-utilised Māori land. The Māori Land Court should have a role in approving the appointment and retaining oversight of external administrators.
Proposition 3: Māori land should have effective, fit for purpose, governance
The duties and obligations of trustees and other governance bodies who administer or manage Māori land should be aligned with the laws that apply to general land and corporate bodies. There should be greater consistency in the rules and processes associated with various types of governance structures.
Proposition 4: There should be an enabling institutional framework to support owners of Māori land to make decisions and resolve any disputes.
Disputes relating to Māori land should be referred to mediation in the first instance. Where the dispute remains unresolved following mediation, it may be determined by the Māori Land Court.
Proposition 5: Excessive fragmentation of Māori land should be discouraged.
Succession to Māori land should be simplified. A register should be maintained to record the names and whakapapa of all interests in Māori land, regardless of size.