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Claim for costs and losses settled

14 July 2008

Claim for costs and losses settled

The government and Atihau-Whanganui Incorporation (AWI) have agreed to a settlement of AWI’s claims for costs and losses incurred as a result of its lands being subject to the vested lands regime, Associate Finance Minister Trevor Mallard announced today.

"The $23.5 million settlement with AWI is a significant step towards achieving the vision of the original Māori owners of the land who, in the early 1900’s, vested their land under the Māori Lands Administration Act 1900," Trevor Mallard said.

"When they did this, their vision included the retention of their land in Māori ownership and a firm expectation that in the future, the land would return to them in a developed state.

"AWI has been concerned it received less than commercial returns on their land since it was vested and incurred significant debt to resume their land – restricting their ability to develop it. The Māori Vested Land Administration Act imposed a 21-year lease term, a fixed rental percentage of the unimproved value, a ten-year rent review and compensation for retiring lessees.

"This is a fair settlement for the Crown and AWI and has similarities with the Taranaki West Coast land owners settlement of 2002. This settlement helps AWI overcome the limitations that stemmed from the vested lands administration and the debt incurred as they resumed control of their land.

"More generally the settlement will enhance AWI by unlocking the economic potential of their land, with spinoffs to their people, the wider community and New Zealand. AWI is New Zealand's second largest sheep and beef farmer so the size of their farming operation means there are likely to be wider economic benefits from this settlement. In particular, it will allow AWI to advance their strategy of increasing farm productivity and the value of their farm production.

"The Crown very much looks forward to a positive future relationship with AWI as a significant primary producer in New Zealand."

Background on AWI
AWI was incorporated in 1969, at which time the Māori owners exchanged their freehold interest in the land for shares in the Incorporation. Incorporation shares may be traded among the descendants of the original owners.

Currently there are approximately 7,100 shareholders with the largest shareholder holding less than two per cent of the shares. Since incorporation, AWI has been resuming leases as leases expired at a significant cost to the Incorporation. The total land area owned by AWI covers 41,500 hectares, of which 39,000 hectares have been resumed, with another 525 hectares on perpetual lease.


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