$56 million to keep the gorse

In one of the patsy questions in the house on Thursday, the minister for Maori Development was asked about how the budget was helping. She used lots of Maori words and strung it all together but ended saying that the best outcome, the one she was most pleased about, was that Maori were not going to develop the land, they would leave it au naturel, i.e. covered in gorse as lots of it is now.

Hon NANAIA MAHUTA (Minister for Maori Development): Thanks for the question. Thanks to the Wellbeing Budget, we’ve made an investment for whanau [family] to become more involved in developing their whenua [land]. The investment of approximately $56 million will go towards providing a package of whenua Maori reforms that will provide updated information and data, improved Maori Land Court processes, targeted amendments to Te Ture Whenua Maori Act, and a regional advisory service to help whanau succeed, connect, and utilise their whenua for their own future wellbeing.

Now, a study showed that underutilised 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 Maori as a targeted initiative.

Rino Tirikatene: What is the biggest hurdle for Maori wanting to develop their whenua?

Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: A hurdle for many Maori landowners is succeeding to their land interests. We want to improve the legislative and court-related aspects to this. That’s why in the package of reforms that we’re introducing in line with the $56 million whenua Maori investment, a series of targeted amendments will help to improve the succession process and pack in better information and advisory services so whanau 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 whanau 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 whanau.

Rino Tirikatene: What type of improvements should owners see in the information that they will have access to, and why is this important?

Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: The investment we’re making through Vote Justice to update Maori land online and in partnership with Te Puni Kokiri, Te Tumu Paeroa, and Manaaki Whenua through WhenuaViz, whanau will have access to better landowner title information and their land capability profile to make some really good decisions about the suitability of their land for varying purposes.

Improved access to better information is a positive gain for all Maori landowners, so that they can have an informed and strategic conversation about the future use of their whenua. There’s also an ability to access finance capital through the $100 million whenua Maori land fund ring-fenced for the purpose of creating value uplift for Maori landowners already on their development path.

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


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.