It has been a busy few weeks with Rātana, Waitangi and of course Parliament resuming.
This year, we have some significant pieces of legislation including Te Ture Whenua Māori and the Māori Language (Te Reo Māori) Bill which will go before the House.
The main purpose of the Ture Whenua Māori reform is about making it easier for Māori land owners to make their own decisions about how their land is governed and used, and protecting the status of Māori land as a taonga tuku iho.
Over the past 17 years there have been many reviews, wānanga, expert panels, consultation hui and submissions processes.
These efforts have been motivated by Māori land owners’ calls for more autonomy to make decisions, have better support to develop land and to ensure Māori land is retained for future generations.
As a result of feedback and consultation, some key amendments to the Exposure Draft Bill include:
- Changes to the rating and valuation system to reduce rates on Māori land
- Marae and burial grounds, and Māori land that is subject to Ngā Whenua Rahui covenants is rate-free
- Putting in place measures to support Māori land development, if owners’ choose to develop their land.
To support Māori land owner aspirations, Te Puni Kōkiri is working on several projects to explore ways to resolve issues including landlocked land, paper roads and public works.
One of them is the Whenua Māori Fund, which will equip Māori land owners and trustees with knowledge about how to make unproductive land – productive. It also aims to help them to increase the productivity of land that is already being used.
The pūtea will help people better understand how to set up and use the land for ventures such as farming, tourism, apiculture and horticulture.
It will also help others who are using their land to access information and advice about how to improve their land potential which can include upskilling themselves, better planning and management of their whenua.
The $12.8 million fund, which is set aside for four years is to be launched in the near future.
Meanwhile, we are also waiting for the Māori Affairs Committee to report back on the Māori Language (Te Reo Māori) Bill by the end of next week.
The bill, as introduced to Parliament, affirms the status of te reo Māori and establishes a process for its revitalisation.
Another top of the list priority for me is housing.
I am delighted to mention that Te Rūnanga ā Iwi o Ngāpuhi has secured funding from the Māori Housing Network and is running a series of papakāinga hui for whānau in Hokianga. The first of the information hui on papakāinga development will be held at the Rūnanga in Kaikohe on Tuesday, the 23rd of February. People will also hear from representatives from the Māori Housing Network, Te Puni Kōkiri, Far North District Council and the Māori Land Court.
I look forward to updating you on further developments.
Te Ururoa Flavell
Māori Development Minister
Minita Whanaketanga Māori