Māori land protection to get boost with new bill

  • 31/03/2017
Tino Rangatiratanga flag

Proposed law changes will make it more difficult to acquire Māori land under the Public Works Act.

Māori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell is going to put the amendments to the Act in the Te Ture Whenua Māori Bill, which is going through Parliament.

The bill rewrites the laws around Māori land ownership. It's designed to ensure there are sufficient safeguards for the retention of Māori land while making it easier for owners to make decisions about how they use it.

Mr Flavell can insert new provisions into the bill when it comes up for its committee stage next week.

"The changes include amendments to the Public Works Act 1981," he said.

"The taking of land for public works has had a significant impact on Māori land - in the past, legislation allowed easier acquisition of Māori land with less access to compensation, and Māori land has been reduced to just over five percent of all land.

"The changes to the Public Works Act 1981 will require authorities to have a strong justification to acquire Māori land, and where possible the amount of land taken should be minimised."

In 2014, renowned author Patricia Grace managed to save her land after it was under threat during the building of the Kapiti expressway. She inherited the land from her great, great grandfather Wi Parata Te Kakakura - an important leader of Te Ati Awa.

Mr Flavell told reporters any agency that wanted to acquire Māori land under the Act would face a stronger test in future.

He also intends inserting several other provisions in the bill, including minor changes to the rating of jointly-owned Māori land.

He also wants to ensure the Māori Land Court has jurisdiction when claims relate to estates with interests in Māori freehold land.

The bill is controversial, and the Labour Party has vowed to repeal it if it wins the election.

Mr Flavell has been accused by some Māori leaders of failing to properly consult on the bill, which he rejects.

It's been through 17 drafts and there were numerous hui to discuss it.

"This must be the most consulted on bill that's ever come to Parliament," Mr Flavell said.