Owners' Aspirations Regarding the Utilisation of Māori Land
This report summarises the findings of a number of hui held to provide an understanding of the aspirations of Māori land owners, and the barriers and enablers to their realisation. It also analyses the issues raised in the light of Te Ture Whenua Māori Act 1993 (TTWMA), in order to inform any future review of the regulatory framework. It represents a further step in the consideration of issues associated with Māori land arising from the Māori Land Tenure Review undertaken by Hui Taumata in 2005.
Six hui where held around the country. The hui were structured so as to provide input from owners of large and small blocks, and from those with and without effective management structures. The research revealed a wide range of specific aspirations:
- to retain the land that had been handed down from tipuna thereby maintaining owners’ association with it
- to utilise the land within the context of exercising values associated with land as a tāonga tuku iho such as kaitiakitanga and manaakitanga
- to provide the opportunity for owners to directly utilise undeveloped land (e.g. for hunting and fishing, papakāinga, cultural observance)
- to achieve a balance between managing the land as a viable business but still maintaining the owners’ cultural connection
- to retain and improve existing long term businesses associated with the land, especially farming, and for owners to use the land directly rather than through lease
- to achieve the maximum financial return for the owners, provide employment for the owners where possible and to build a financial base for coming generations
- to achieve the best economic potential through exploring the possibility of diversification into new commercial opportunities (examples given were often comparatively low capital ventures including bee keeping, development of tracks and huts on undeveloped land for tourism ventures, and offering hunting and fishing tours).
The research has also demonstrated that the following influences have shaped the reported range of aspirations:
- the barriers that exist surrounding the utilisation of land
- current utilisation of the land
- recent decisions to bring a new direction in relation to the utilisation or management of the land
- the remote relevance of land to owners resulting in owners giving little thought to aspirations.
The research also showed that fundamental barriers exist to the formulation of aspirations or the taking of any effective action over the utilisation of land due to:
- an absence of commonality amongst ownership groups
- divergence amongst management entities
- a low level of available information about the land, ownership and management
- the incompatibility of regulation to existing circumstances.
Findings and the Current Regulatory Environment
When the research findings are considered against existing regulatory settings, the following matters are pertinent:
- regulation relies to a large extent on the exercise of discretion
- the varied relationship within TTWMA between its two key objectives of retention and utilisation
- the association between regulation and the enablers and barriers to those owner aspirations that have been identified in relation to land utilisation
- the impacts for regulation of the owner disassociation with land that has developed over decades
- the extent that regulation currently assumes and relies on the ability to identify and locate owners and on the expectation of owner consensus
- the way in which regulation and practice insist on owner participation in governance
- the inherent difficulties in working in a trust structure
- the possibility of an evolved role for whānau trusts
- the limitations of whenua tōpū trusts.
The Need for and Nature of a Review of Regulatory Settings
The breadth of owner aspirations, the range of influences that have shaped them, the fundamental barriers which exist to their achievement and the role played by the regulatory environment essentially forms the case for recommending that a broad review should proceed of regulatory and non-regulatory areas that influence and impact on Māori land and Māori land tenure. The research results also provide guidance on the principles that should shape the review. Any review should:
- recognise and build towards the realisation of owner aspirations
- recognise and take into account the wide variations that exist in the size of the blocks, and in the governance and management structures
- seek to develop a menu of solutions to be applied according to particular circumstances
- ensure that available resources being directed at Māori land are targeted effectively
- remove regulatory barriers for those ownership groups who are already taking action for the utilisation of their land and the achievement of their aspirations
- identify ways to actively assist those owners who are beginning to work towards the utilisation of their land and the achievement of their aspirations
- identify and limit risks of cost or loss for those owners who are unable at this point to utilise their lands or move towards the achievement of their aspirations.
There are several evident areas of review:
- consider the benefits and risks of exempting from certain regulatory oversight any Māori land management entities that have met a set of benchmarks relating to governance, financial management and capacity
- identify and ameliorate clauses which potentially present barriers to Māori land management entities, and other ownership groups, working towards the utilisation of land and achievement of aspirations
- review the wider legislative, regulatory or administrative context to ascertain and ameliorate any existing or latent risks facing those owners who are unable at this point to utilise their lands
- evaluate the effectiveness of the range of resources available and in use that assist owners towards the fulfillment of their aspirations
- consider ways in which the fragmentation of Māori land titles might be addressed
- consider ways in which the fragmentation of Māori ownership might be addressed
- evaluate the concepts behind and the roles of owner representatives.