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Launching Te Pouwhenua - Matt Robson Speech

Hon Matt Robson
Minister for Courts
Minister of Corrections
Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control
Minister for Land Information
Associate Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade

19 April 2001 Speech notes

Launching Te Pouwhenua, the national magazine of the Maori Land Court


Te whare tu mai nei, tena koe

[Greetings to the house which shelters us and in which we are gathered.]

E nga mate huhua.
Moe wairua, moe marie nui.
Otia te po, nau mai te ao.

[My humble respects also to the dearly departed. May they rest in peace. May their souls and the souls of all the dearly departed rest in peace.]

Ki a koe te poutokomanawa o te Whare, e Rangitihi, tena koe
Korua nei, oku nei hoa o te Whare Paremata, tena korua
Koutou nei nga kai arahi o te ture, tena koutou
Ki a koe e Pihopa, te mata o te Ao, tena koe
E nga rangatira me nga iwi,
Nga moka e wha
Tena koutou

[To the kaumatua of the House, I greet you.
To my esteemed colleagues, I greet you
To the guardians of the Law, I greet you
Finally, Bishop, face of the nation, I greet you
My sincere greetings of welcome to everyone present here today.]

Na reira, tatou nei katoa
Me hui tahi tatou e tautokohia ana te kaupapa o te po nei,
E mihi ana, e mihi ana, e mihi ana

[Once again, to us all who have come here to support this special occasion, I greet you once, twice and thrice.]


Today marks an important milestone for Te Kooti Whenua Maori - the Maori Land Court.

When the early colonial governments found it necessary to formally establish ownership interests in Maori land, they set in train a system of quite unique characteristics.

Generally, Maori freehold land is not regarded by Maori land owners as a freely marketable, entrepreneurial resource but, rather, as a source of identity with deep cultural and social significance.

Notions of ownership tend to be seen in terms of stewardship and connection, rather than proprietorship; of permanence rather than transience.

The majority of Maori freehold land is ancestral or tipuna land, in that it was once Maori customary land, for which ownership has been conferred by orders of the Maori Land Court, arrived at by applying principles of Maori custom.

The owners¡¦ connection with the land is derived through whakapapa; the owners¡¦ connection with one another are through whakapapa; and those connections have remained largely unbroken at least since 1840 and, in most instances, for many centuries and over many generations prior to that.

The nature of Maori land ownership and the context in which the Maori Land Court operates has always presented its own challenges. Current Maori land law reflects these views. Legitimate interest in Maori land, in this context, is not confined to matters of law. It extends to matters of tikanga.

Participation in litigation in the Maori Land Court is not confined to the immediate parties. All other owners in land that is the subject of a proceeding, and their families and descendants, and the kaumatua of the hapu associated with the land, are all entitled to know about the proceeding, to attend the court, and to have their say.

Because the Court¡¦s procedure incorporates elements of marae kawa, the Court will hear not only sworn testimony from witnesses duly called, but may also hear from kaumatua and others, speaking from the body of the Court, and not subject to cross examination. In some cases, these contributions from the body of the Court may have a bearing on the Judge¡¦s decision.

With fragmentation of ownership, large numbers of absentee owners, large numbers of deceased owners whose descendants may participate, and significant barriers to locating and communicating with those interested in a proceeding, a number of practices have been a feature of Maori Land Court procedure.

These practices include the annual Gazetting, in advance, of the dates and places of Maori Land Court sittings, and the publication of lists of applications fixtured for hearing in each district.

But multiple ownership, decades of urban drift, an increasingly transient population, and the unique characteristics of the Court¡¦s jurisdiction, presents the particular challenge of maintaining effective lines of communication.

There are over now over 2 million ownership interests in Maori land, and statistics show that 17 percent of the Maori population change address each year.

Recognising the challenges, the Labour Alliance Coalition Government announced in June last year the establishment of a pro-active new advisory service for Maori land owners.

The Maori Land Court Advisory Service comprises a national network of 14 specially trained officers, based in Maori Land Court registries and offices throughout the country, who travel to local communities to bring the services of the Court to the people.

Maori land owners face complexities and institutional barriers, inherent in the Maori land tenure system, which do not exist for general land owners. I have already touched on these.

The new advisory service helps ensure Maori better advance and control their own use, management and development of their land.

It is interesting to note that every one percent increase in productivity on the current Maori land capital base has the potential to generate up to $15 million per annum for Maori land owners.

This new approach has been well received by Maori land owners, because for the first time, court administration is now fully focused on the needs of the people, who armed with better information and better access to information, are in a better position to deal with the challenges of the system.

As well as the network of specialist advisors, last year¡¦s package included:
„Y a new Iwi Consultation Forum;
„Y a new geographical information system, that depicts all Maori land data on computer, with the ability to locate and identify Maori land holdings and their characteristics;
„Y a new Website providing information about Maori Land Court processes enabling electronic filing of documents;
„Y on-line access to Maori land information held by other agencies;
„Y more information resources, such as the highly successful Maori land owner education booklets;

And an expanded nation-wide Panui, to keep Maori up to date with the business of the Maori Land Court and current land issues, which brings me to the reason we are here tonight.

Te Pouwhenua is a kupu tawhito originating from the separation of Ranginui and Papatuanuku.

Pou has many meanings relative to the work conducted by the Maori Land Court. In particular, strength is derived from pou in tipuna whare: Poutokomanawa, Poutahuhu, Pouturongo, Nga Pouhuriropa (Mana Atua, Mana Tipuna, Mana Whenua, Mana Tangata). Pou is also the umbilical cord - the lifeline that transports food and oxygen.

Whenua denotes the relationship to all elements of the universe including flora, fauna, the rivers and the mountains. Whenua retains history, whakapapa, he taonga tuku iho. Whenua is also the placenta that provides nourishment.

The name Te Pouwhenua describes the Court's connection to the land, the staff being the back-bone.

Te Pouwhenua will provide Maori, including those who no longer live in their home areas, with a greater range of information about the Maori Land Court and its services, and better information on Maori land and Maori land issues.

Te Pouwhenua will include an insert, which lists court sittings to be held around the country in the coming month. This will greatly improve the notification of business of the Maori Land Court, and more effective notice will enhance the principles of justice underpinning the Court.

The format is that of an attractive, full colour monthly magazine. It is produced by a very talented and enthusiastic group of Maori Land Court staff, and will be sent out to an extensive mailing list, as well as being available from Maori Land Court offices, the Waitangi Tribunal and Te Puni Kokiri offices. Contributions from readers are encouraged.

The front cover of the first edition features one of the new Advisors, Richard Waiwai, greeting the respected Ngati Whakaue kaumatua, Pihopa Kingi, who is with us tonight.

Enormous strides made, over recent years, by the Department for Courts, to make the Maori Land Court administration as effective and responsive as possible to the needs of Maori land owners.

This includes the first ever nation-wide data base of Maori land title and ownership information, computerising court processes, imaging and protecting precious historic records, establishing the first Maori land law reports, and setting up a Maori Land Court office in Auckland and new offices in Hamilton and Whangarei.

This new investment, launched tonight, makes it possible to deliver even better services to more people, and is another step toward realising the Maori Land Court¡¦s vision of a modern organisation, dedicated to serving the needs and aspirations of Maori land owners, and supporting the judiciary.

It gives me great pleasure to officially launch Te Pouwhenua, the monthly national Panui of Te Kooti Whenua Maori.

Na reira e te iwi,
Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena tatou katoa.


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