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Te Ture Whenua Maori Amendment Bill Passed

28 May 2002

The passage of Te Ture Whenua Maori Amendment Bill will improve the ability of Maori to retain, occupy, use, develop and control their own land, demonstrating the our commitment to improving Maori control of Maori land, said the Minister of Maori Affairs, Parekura Horomia.

The Bill completed its passage through Parliament on 28 May 2002. The new legislation will come into force on 1 July 2002.

"The Maori Land Court’s new mediation provisions for representation issues are a major innovation that will assist in the resolution of representation disputes. Solutions arrived at by mediation with the people directly involved, rather than made by a Judge, then everyone will be better off.

“Access to land-locked land has a very long history and I am proud to be associated with a Bill that provides an equitable solution to the problem. It is right and proper that the Maori Land Court have full powers to deal with the problems of land-locked Maori land.

“We have simplified the owner consent requirements for land dealings and extended the definition of a “long term lease’ from more than 42 years to more than 52 years.

“We have also given greater clarity to the nature and status of occupation orders which can now also be inherited where appropriate, providing more certainty and assisting in the administration of Maori land.

“Some of the changes broaden the jurisdiction of the Maori Land Court, so we have introduced additional new requirements to ensure that new Judges appointed to the Court will also have knowledge and experience of Te Reo Maori, Tikanga Maori and the Treaty.

“I would like to acknowledge the work of my predecessors, Hon Tau Henare and Hon Dover Samuels, of the Maori Council other Maori groups, people and others throughout Aotearoa. The Maori Affairs Select Committee made a key contribution to the refinement and passage of this legislation with their unanimous recommendations.”

Backgroun information on Te Ture Whenua Maori Amendment Bill

The first major amendment to Te Ture Whenua Maori Act 1993 reinforce the Act’s purpose of promoting the retention, occupation, use, development and control of Maori land by Maori owners, their whanau, hapu and descendants. Most of the changes relate to the powers of the Maori Land Court.

Three significant changes made by the Bill are:

- Extensive new powers are vested in the Maori Land Court to facilitate the resolution through mediation of disputes relating to the representation of classes or groups of Maori for the purposes of current or intended proceedings, negotiations, consultations, allocations of property or other matters. The provisions replace the present sections 30 and 30A of the Act, and establish mediation processes to facilitate resolution by the parties involved themselves rather than by the Court. Built-in safeguards include ensuring that a Judge of the Maori Land Court cannot be both a mediator and an adjudicator on the same representation matters and by imposing confidentiality on evidence presented in mediation, unless the person providing that evidence consents to its disclosure.

- New provisions to give the Maori Land Court more effective powers to provide landowners with reasonable access to land-locked Maori land. Many thousands of hectares of Maori land remain landlocked. The new provisions are modelled on comparable provisions in the Property Law Act 1952.

- New provisions clarify and tidy up the status of occupation orders on multiple owned Maori freehold land and also provide that such orders can now be succeeded to in appropriate cases. The duration of orders can also be specified by the Court.

Other provisions in the Bill include:

- An amendment to the Act’s Preamble so that it now expressly provides that an object of the Act is to protect “wahi tapu’. Consistent with this change, it is now possible to grant an injunction with respect to any threatened trespass or other injury to wahi tapu.

- The broadening of the Maori Land Court’s jurisdiction so that it can issue injunctions against any person in relation to trespass or other injury to Maori reservations or waahi tapu.

- Providing the Maori Land Court with the same jurisdiction as the High Court in relation to the grant of specific performance, or to award damages, in relation to leases of Maori freehold land.

- Clarifying the power of the Maori Land Court to confirm alienations and reducing its discretion as regards confirmation by specifying the matters which it must take into account.

- The introduction of an additional requirement that persons to be appointed as Judges of the Maori Land Court must be suitable with regard to their knowledge and experience of Te Reo Maori, Tikanga Maori and the Treaty of Waitangi.

- The definition of a “long term lease’ is changed to “a lease for a term of more than 52 years (presently more than 42 years). Only “long term leases’ in terms of the new definition will require 50% ownership approval.

- The definition of “General land owned by Maori’ has been enlarged. This will make it easier for Maori to convert such land back to Maori freehold land (by status order). The new definition will also mean that the machinery and protective provisions within the Act will be available or apply to a greater number of land blocks.

- New provisions restrict a trustee or Maori incorporation board of management member from voting on or discussing matters that concern or affect that persons employment with the trust or Maori incorporation or relate to contracts in which that person may have an interest.

- Beneficiaries of a trust are given the right to seek a review of their Trust. Previously, only Trustees could apply to the Court.

- The Maori Land Court will no longer have the discretion to investigate Maori Incorporations on its own motion.

- A new provision will enable landowners to register land in the name of a tipuna.

- It will now be possible to create whenua topu trusts over any Maori land or General land owned by Maori where this will promote and facilitate the use of the land in the interests of the iwi or hapu. The requirement that a whenua topu trust can only be created over the whole or a substantial part of the total interests in land owned by members of a hapu or iwi is removed.

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