In September 2019, Māori Development Minister Hon Nanaia Mahuta introduced a Bill to improve the framework for whānau succession, dispute resolution and other matters related to whenua Māori.
“The changes that have been made to the Act reflect many conversations with land owners about their experiences to connect with, develop and use their whenua,” says Anaru Smiler, Whenua Māori Programme Lead at Te Puni Kōkiri.
“When designing the Whenua Māori Programme, land owners told us they sometimes found it hard to navigate their way through the laws and regulations related to whenua Māori and in their dealings with the Māori Land Court. The Act has now been amended to simplify and improve some of the legal processes and requirements on them as land owners. These changes will help reduce the time and costs to whānau resolving issues and progressing connection to, and use of, Māori land.”
The new laws introduce a number of initiatives, including a process for simple succession applications that have not been contested by whānau, clarity around the processes for succession of whāngai, a new free tikanga-based mediation service, use of Māori land for the building of papakāinga housing, and around the function of the Māori Land Court generally.
The new and enhanced processes and services will come into effect on Waitangi Day, 6 February 2021, with the specific date confirmed soon. This will allow time for the Māori Land Court to stand up the new processes and services.
“These changes to Te Ture Whenua Māori Act are a key part of the Whenua Māori Programme, which is supporting whānau to achieve their economic, social and cultural aspirations for their whenua,” says Anaru Smiler.
The Whenua Māori Programme is a four-year commitment of funding by the Government to create a step change in the futures of Māori freehold land owners. The Programme includes an integrated suite of initiatives to support whānau to connect with, develop and use their whenua.