Updates from these hui and further information can be found on Te Ture Whenua Māori Reform Facebook page. The latest version of the draft bill, media statements and additional background information can be found on this website, click here.
Why reform Te Ture Whenua Māori?
There are two main reasons for the reform of Te Ture Whenua Māori:
1. To protect the status of Whenua Māori as a taonga tuku iho with special significance to Māori, and to promote the retention of land.
2. To make it easier for Māori land owners to make decisions about how their land is governed and used. It removes constraints in the existing legislation and makes decision-making easier and more efficient.
The reform has been motivated by Maori land owners calls that Maori land is retained for future generations (Taonga Tuku Iho); for more autonomy to make decisions (Mana Motuhake) and better support to develop land (Whakawhanake).
What are the changes proposed?
We have listed below some of the key changes proposed and some of examples:
- The draft Ture Whenua Bill sets out clear thresholds for landowners to make different types of decisions to safeguard the retention of Māori land. It also makes a clear distinction between when participating owners can make decisions and when decisions need to be made by all owners. For example: If the owners want to establish a governance body it requires the support of owners who hold 50 percent of the participating owners total share in the land but if land owners want to lease their land for up to 52 years it will require 75 percent or more of participating owners shares. These thresholds can be raised with the consent of owners but not lowered.
- The draft Ture Whenua Bill provides Māori land owners with greater decision-making powers when it comes to what happens on their land. For example: Māori land owners can form a whānau trust, establish a governing body, amalgamate land parcels, give residential occupation rights and transfer individual shareholdings amongst whānau without needing to get an order from the Māori Land Court. (Under the present Act, they go to the Māori Land Court for a court order. Under the new Bill, they can make these decisions themselves and then register those decisions with the Māori Land Service).
- The draft Ture Whenua Māori Bill will establish a Māori Land Service which will help Māori landowners to make decisions about the management and utilisation of their land. For example: the Chief Executive of the Māori Land Service will provide support to the owners of Māori freehold land where there is no governance structure by arranging meetings of owners to consider proposals associated with the management and utilisation of their land.
- The Māori Land Service will provide a tikanga-based disputes resolution process for Māori landowners to encourage Māori landowners to reach a decision about their land rather than going to the Māori Land Court. For example: when people don’t agree about who is entitled to succeed to an interest in Māori land the dispute process will help them to settle that issue between themselves without having to contest it in court.
- The Māori Land Court will still have jurisdiction to ensure legal requirements relating to Māori land are followed. They will also provide an accessible forum for resolving legal issues concerning Māori land.
- The provisions to safeguard the retention of Māori land have been strengthened in the Bill. In the current Act, landowners can sell Māori freehold land if the holders of 75 percent of the shares agree. In the draft Bill, any sale will continue to require at least the same level of agreement with owners having the option to raise this to 100 percent.
- The new Bill will make it easier for local councils to remove rates arrears on unoccupied and unused Māori land where there is a demonstrable commitment to use or occupy land in the future.
- It also makes it easier for local councils to make unoccupied and unused Māori land non-rateable.
- The new Bill removes the arbitrary limit of two hectares on the non-rating of marae and urupā. This brings them into line with churches and cemeteries which are non-rateable, regardless of their size.
- The new Bill will make Ngā Whenua Rāhui (conservation land) non-rateable which brings it into line with QEII covenanted land.
For more information about the Te Ture Whenua Māori reform visit Facebook or read more on the Te Puni Kōkiri website.