The Minister of Māori Affairs Dr Pita Sharples and Associate Minister Christopher Finlayson QC have released a discussion document on Te Ture Whenua Māori Act 1993. The document follows two reports on Māori land issues in 2011 and stems from Te Ture Whenua Māori Act Review Panel's (formed in 2012) consideration of the Act. Its purpose is to ensure the Act allows the realisation of economic potential of Māori land, but also to preserve its cultural significance for future generations. Accordingly, the Panel proposes that:
- utilisation of Māori land should be determined by a majority of engaged owners without need for endorsement from the Māori Land Court in most situations;
- all Māori land should be capable of utilisation and effective administration through the appointment of external managers or administrators when owners are not located or engaged;
- Māori land should have effective, fit for purpose governance by aligning it to the rules for general land and corporate body governance;
- the institutional framework should support owners to make decisions and resolve disputes through referral to mediation prior to Māori Land Court intervention;
- excessive fragmentation of Māori land should be discouraged by simplifying succession and maintaining registers of interests.
The overall theme of the Panel's recommendations is to allow retention of Māori land while at the same time providing opportunities for engaged owners to use and develop land for the benefit of whānau, hapū, and iwi. Utilisation is sought to be achieved through combination of engaged owners, effective governance and sufficient resources.
The Panel is holding hui during April and May in regions with high concentrations of Māori land and Māori land owners. Written submissions are due on 17 May 2013. To read the full discussion document, see here.