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Ceremony To Mark Change To Lake Taupo Lease



Embargoed until delivery: 12.00pm, 30 MARCH 2000


Tena koutou katoa

Tumu te Heuheu, my colleagues Hon Mark Burton and Hon Parekura Horomia, Trustees of the Lake Taupo Forest Trust, Murray McAlonan and other senior officials, other distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen…

I am grateful to the Chairman and the other Trustees for inviting me to attend this historic signing. It would be hard to ignore the weight of history today, meeting as we do so close to the great mountains Ruapehu, Tongariro and Ngauruhoe. These mighty taonga, gifted to the nation in 1887 by Te Heuheu Tukino the fourth, remind us all of the long-standing partnership between the Ngati Tuwharetoa people and the Crown.

Today’s ceremony reflects another aspect of that partnership: economic development. Thirty one years ago the Crown and the Lake Taupo Forest Trust signed a 70-year lease agreement. Today we have agreed to vary that agreement.

Lake Taupo forest is the largest of the 20 forests planted by the Crown on leased Maori land. The total area of forest planted was 52,000 hectares. The Crown’s share of these 20 forests is today worth more than $300 million. These forests have become significant assets.

Standing as we do by Lake Taupo, one of New Zealand’s finest freshwater fisheries, we should remember that the lease objectives were not simply economic. There were important environmental objectives. In the case of Lake Taupo forest, the lease purposes included:
 Preventing soil erosion and reducing pollution of the waters of Lake Taupo and of the streams and rivers flowing into and out of the lake …
 Conserving and protecting fish and wildlife habitat … and
 Preserving and safeguarding the graves of the Maori people, and all historic and sacred places in and around the lake, and the areas of natural beauty and scenery, and of unique vegetation.

These broader purposes have been well served through the development of the Lake Taupo forest. At the same time, a major economic resource has been created, which today provides a significant opportunity for Ngati Tuwharetoa. And it is the economic opportunities created by forestry that I now wish to briefly comment on.

As you know, the new Government has made closing the gaps between Maori and non-Maori one of our top priorities. The Cabinet Committee on Closing the Gaps, chaired by the Prime Minister, is currently developing a programme of gap-closing measures. These measures will include establishing a Ministry of Maori Economic and Social Development and requiring all Government departments to account for their delivery of services to Maori.

As the Prime Minister has said, the Government is not convinced that a whole lot of extra spending is required. What we are demanding is that things be done differently, and better, so that better outcomes are achieved for the Maori people.

Much of the Government’s focus in gap closing will be on access to social services, particularly health and education. As Minister of Forestry, my main focus is on the potential contribution that forestry can make in helping to close the gaps.

Forestry has already made a contribution, and not only in recent years. European ships visited New Zealand for spars from the 1790s onwards. By the 1820s there was already a thriving timber industry, in which both Maori and Pakeha participated. This was based on coastal timber stations, exporting timber and building boats and ships.

New Zealand timber was never a free resource. The trees were purchased from the local tribes, who also provided much of the labour force for felling trees and transporting them to ships.

After the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, the Crown exercised its right to purchase large areas of Maori land. However, many private sales of cutting rights, by Maori to timber companies, also took place. The price of forested land increased through competition between buyers. In many cases, the amounts paid by timber companies for cutting rights compared favourably with Crown payments for land. This continued from the 1840s right through to the 1920s.

Many Maori obtained employment in the timber and related industries. By the time of the 1926 census, when Maori made up 4.5% of the population, Maori made up 8% of the workforce in bushfelling, scrubcutting and sawmilling.

By the late 1940s, Ngati Tuwharetoa were amongst the leaders of Maori involvement in the forestry industry. A report in the National Review in 1948 noted that the 17,000 acre Puketapu 3A block on the Taumaranui-Tokanui Road was being logged under contract by two Maori-owned companies. The forest management committee was headed by the young Ngati Tuwharetoa paramount chief: Hepi te Heuheu.

This high level of employment has continued in more recent years. At the time of the most recent census, more than 7,500 Maori workers were directly employed in forestry-related industries.

A different pattern emerged in the ownership of timber-producing forests. Up until the mid-1960s, Maori-owned indigenous forests contributed very large volumes of sawn timber. This changed dramatically in the 1970s as new pine forests came into production. By the start of the 1980s, Maori-owned forests contributed 1% or less of total sawn timber.

Much of the land owned by Maori was suitable for forestry. Large areas of this land were planted in trees. However, it was difficult to attract investment capital for multiple-owned land, and many owners were cautious about adopting European models of business organisation. As a result, most of the forests planted on Maori land were owned and managed by non-Maori investors.

Two major forests were developed on the land Ngati Tuwharetoa leased to the Crown. Lake Taupo forest was the first, Rotoaira forest was the second. These far-sighted investment decisions are now bearing fruit, and delivering major benefits to all New Zealanders.

It was estimated in 1999 that 14% of all planted forests were on Maori multiple-owned land. This figure increased dramatically in February 2000, as a result of the Ngai Tahu purchases of former Crown forests in Te Wai Pounamu. Maori now own 21% of the land underlying New Zealand’s planted forests. Many areas of land could still change hands, as part of the Treaty of Waitangi settlement process, so the area of Maori-owned land in forestry is likely to increase.

Looking to the future, this presents the owners with a significant opportunity. Up until now, most Maori have not invested in forests. Maori-owned forests make up less than 2% of the total planted area. But the rents coming from Maori-owned land now give Maori the opportunity to invest. By using these rents to help plant the next crop of trees, landowners can become forest owners and managers, sharing in all the wealth to be derived from New Zealand’s future forests.

Ngati Tuwharetoa people are again amongst the leaders. The lease variation that we sign today will ensure that the full ownership of Lake Taupo forest returns, over the next 20 years, to Ngati Tuwharetoa landowners.

This lease variation has, as it must, met the commercial criteria required to ensure that a fair return is obtained for all New Zealanders. However, I see the agreement as more than just another commercial deal. It is a sign of the increasing confidence of Ngati Tuwharetoa investors. It is the way forward for Maori in the forestry industry. It builds on the decisions of yesterday’s leaders and it offers new opportunities for the leaders of tomorrow.

I now wish to make some comments about the future role of Government.

There are many views about the history of New Zealand since the Treaty of Waitangi was signed. I think it fair to say that early Governments had relatively little regard for the words in the Treaty. Subsequent Governments dealt with Maori in a way that is now considered paternalistic. The historic events of recent years are seeing a new relationship developing between Maori and non-Maori.

My Government wishes to build a relationship with Maori that can work for all New Zealanders. To that end we are requiring Government departments to account more openly for the Maori services they deliver.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has not had a strong record of involvement with Maori in the past. For historical reasons, most assistance to Maori agriculture was delivered through other agencies. The former New Zealand Forest Service did however develop relations with Maori, through the partnerships established in the 20 Crown Lease Forests.

My colleague the Minister of Agriculture and I are keen to see MAF establish ongoing relationships with its Maori stakeholders. Some of the work required has already started. For example, MAF now has a Maori policy team. A series of MAF hui were held in 1998. There is a Joint Working Relationship Agreement between MAF and the Ministry of Maori Development. However, a great deal remains to be done.

We as Ministers support the idea of MAF beginning a process to develop a Maori stakeholders group. Such a group could operate at a very high level, working with Ministers and senior managers in developing policies appropriate for a new era.

For this to happen we need to hold discussions with Maori stakeholders and with other Ministers and Departments.

There is already a relationship between MAF and Ngati Tuwharetoa landowners, as we have worked together ever since the leases were agreed. So it is clear to me that Ngati Tuwharetoa will have a very valuable contribution to make in respect of the proposal. I shall look forward to discussing this matter further, and hearing some of your views on the subject, later today and in the coming weeks and months.

In conclusion, I wish to congratulate all those involved in negotiating the Lake Taupo Forest lease variation. This has involved the Crown negotiators and their advisors and, most importantly, the Trustees of the Lake Taupo Forest Trust and their advisors, in negotiations over a period of several years. I am certain that the efforts and foresight of the negotiators will be seen as justified in future years.


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