$56.1m to sort out Maori land ownership – but Mahuta will be cheered if the land remains undeveloped

Delivering for Māori and the whenua.  

In this, Māori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta announced that Budget 2019 has allocated $56.1 million over four years towards implementing the Whenua Māori Programme which Mahuta announced in February.  

She described this as “a strategic investment into the development of whenua, Māori freehold landowners and their whānau.”

Among the objectives, the programme will support Māori landowners, trustees and whānau including those who are ready to apply for further  public funding through the Provincial Growth Fund. 

“Our focus is on stimulating social and economic development through the 1.4 million hectares of whenua Māori that remains in Māori freehold title,” says Māori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta.

“The Whenua Māori Programme recognises the challenges facing Māori freehold landowners and the value of pursuing opportunities which will lead to the sustainable and intergenerational development of the land and its people.”

But maybe the land will be left to be shaped by the forces of nature.

At Question Time in Parliament this week, Mahuta had more to say about this Budget initiative.

She reiterated that the money will go towards providing a package of whenua Māori reforms that will provide updated information and data, improved Māori Land Court processes, targeted amendments to Te Ture Whenua Māori Act, and a regional advisory service to help whānau succeed, connect, and utilise their whenua for their own future wellbeing. 

Mahuta referenced a study which showed  under-utilised land had the potential to yield over a 40-year period around about $440 million if there was improved development.

“That is the benefit of a wellbeing Budget that focuses on whenua Māori as a targeted initiative.”

Then Mahuta addressed the hurdle for many Māori landowners of succeeding to their land interests.

The package of reforms being introduced will help to improve the succession process and pack in better information and advisory services so whānau can make informed decisions about the best governance structure and the benefits of a collective approach to optimising their development aspirations.

“This approach will enable whānau to connect back to their whenua, build their shared aspiration for the future, and has the potential to create enterprise opportunities, employment, and training outcomes. It’s a real positive step forward for whānau.”

Mahuta also mentioned the prospect of access to finance capital

“… through the $100 million whenua Māori land fund ring-fenced for the purpose of creating value uplift for Māori landowners already on their development path.”

But hey – the land does not have to be developed.  And it seems Mahuta will be greatly cheered if it is not developed.

She concluded: 

“But what I’m most pleased about also—I hear it anecdotally—is that there is a high conservation ethic amongst many Māori landowners, and their desire to keep whenua in its natural state has definite indigenous biodiversity advantages for them and many others.”

A Whale Oil blog post has commented:

“So, $56 mill to develop systems to help them identify who owns the land so that they can leave it as it is.

“Sounds like a great way to increase our well-being.”

The post is headed $56 million to keep the gorse.


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