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A Full Inquiry Into The Public Works Act Called For – Maori Authority Calls The Act A Modern-day Land Grab

The Chair of the National Maori Authority, Matthew Tukaki, has called for a complete review of the Public Works Act indicating that there are several Government Agencies that need to urgently account for Whanau Maori owned land that has been passed into a land bank. Tukaki has also said an Inquiry should be held to review how much land has been offered back, under the law, and how much of that subsequently was found to be unaffordable to Whanau who were the direct descendants of the land that was original acquired under the Act. Under the Public Works Lands Act 1864 and subsequent laws, Māori (and European) lands could be acquired for roads, railways and other public works, sometimes without compensation. Some Māori land was targeted for compulsory acquisition in preference to nearby Pākehā land.

“This Act goes back more than a hundred years, and we know that the original legislation preferencing the taking of Maori land but over the years it’s not just been about Maori and Whanau owned land its also those non-Maori where land was compulsorily acquired. We are taking about great swathes of the country – and there needs to be an accounting for what land became surplus to Government requirements, what land was offered back and how much was knocked back because whanau did not have the ability to front up with the increased in capital value.” Tukaki said

“I want to also be really clear here that a lot of that land was owned by individual Maori owners, as an example, or groups under a Hapu banner but to find out that actually Crown land that might now be surplus to requirements goes into a land bank for future settlements brings to bear the question well hang on – who are the actually original owners and what has, for example, the Government Department or Land Information New Zealand done to track them?” Said Tukaki

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“Because by all accounts the records don’t appear to be absolute shop shape and to be even blunter about it if the records are not good then what are we doing to ensure that that whanau Maori and individual land owners or their descendants are being protected – and if access to capital is the issue, where a descendant cannot afford to pay for the and because its increased in value from twenty or thirty years ago then what mechanism is in place to provide them with access to capital” Tukaki said

“The latest examples are Tokonui hospital, which closed years ago, and has been land banked, the more recent is the former New Plymouth prison site which was land banked back in2017. Across New Zealand, LINZ manages about 900 properties including former prisons, hospitals and schools. My point is even if Iwi and Hapu have the first right of refusal post a whanau Maori descendant or land owner do they have access to finance to be able to say yes to the purchase – and that’s where there needs to be a specific support program in place.” Tukaki said

“The Public Works Act has been a millstone around the necks of many whanau for more than a century – it has caused both grief and grievance and lets face it most of this nations infrastructure has been built off the back of Maori land – at the very least there should be a full and unfettered accounting for what is happening – including the historic nature of the Kaupapa and land compulsorily acquired.” Tukaki said

“And let me be even blunter – its not like agencies such as Waka Kotahi exude confidence; they cant even account for the number of disused orange road cones are around and don’t get me started about the Manawatu Gorge and Transmission Gulley” Tukaki said

Tukaki has said the National Maori Authority has now set up a National Taskforce into Transport and Infrastructure that will be Chaired by former New Zealand Maori Council Chairman, Henare Mason. The first meeting of the Taskforce will be later this month and top of the agenda will be the Public Works Act. Tukaki didn’t rule out challenging the Agencies in the Waitangi Tribunal.

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