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Flavell: Māori Purposes Bill - First Reading

Te Ururoa Flavell

15 SEPTEMBER, 2015

Māori Purposes Bill - First Reading

Mr Speaker, I move that the Māori Purposes Bill be now read a first time.

I nominate the Māori Affairs Committee to consider the Bill.

This Māori Purposes Bill amends the Māori Purposes Act 1991 to improve the governance arrangements for the Wi Pere Trust.

This includes enhancing the Trust’s operational capability and removing unnecessary Crown involvement in the administration of the Trust.

By way of some background, the Wi Pere Trust was established in 1899 to administer the estate of Wiremu Pere – a prominent East Coast politician.

In 1906, the Trust became a statutory trust, and the Trust deed has been incorporated in legislation since the early twentieth century.

The Wi Pere Trust is now governed by the Māori Purposes Act 1991 and has grown to be a successful enterprise.

The Trust has approximately 460 beneficiaries, with land and other net assets valued at nearly $66 million as at June 2014.

The Māori Purposes Act 1991 required the Minister of Māori Affairs and currently requires the Minister for Māori Development to be responsible for certain aspects of the Trust’s administration.

The internal management of the Trust is also detailed in the provisions of the Māori Purposes Act 1991.

This means that any changes to the way the Trust operates must be effected through statutory amendment.

The Māori Purposes Bill removes the need for further Ministerial involvement in the administration of the Trust; it empowers the Trust to adopt rules relating to internal management.

The Bill also replaces the current trustees of the Wi Pere Trust with an incorporated trust board.

These amendments will provide more commercial flexibility for the Trust.

They will strengthen the direct relationship of accountability between the Wi Pere Trust Board and the beneficiaries of the Trust.

The Trust Board will be accountable to beneficiaries under the constitution, and will continue to be accountable under the Trustee Act 1956 and the amended Māori Purposes Act.

The Trust’s register of beneficial interests is currently maintained by the Māori Land Court.

In line with recognising the Wi Pere Trust’s autonomy over its own affairs, the Bill allows the Trust to control and maintain its own register of beneficial interests.

This will help the Trust to administer its unique succession rules.

The Māori Purposes Bill continues and clarifies the Wi Pere Trust’s longstanding succession provisions as set out in the Māori Purposes Act 1991.

Succession to beneficial interests in the Wi Pere Trust is limited to direct lineal descendants of Wi Pere.

However, beneficiaries’ spouses, and children and remoter issue who are not lineal descendants, can succeed to life interests.

It is important to the beneficiaries of the Wi Pere Trust that these unique succession provisions are maintained to:

• preserve the whakapapa of Wi Pere;

• honour his wishes to provide for his whānau; and

• pass on the legacy of Wi Pere to his descendants.

The Māori Purposes Act 1991 provides that all land forming part of Trust property is deemed to be Māori freehold land.

Under Te Ture Whenua Māori Act 1993, Māori freehold land is subject to alienation restrictions and requirements, which general land is not.

These restrictions are designed to promote the retention of Māori freehold land by Māori, but also considerably limit the Wi Pere Trust’s use of its land.

The Māori Purposes Bill removes the current provision deeming all land held by the Trust to be Māori freehold land, and enables the Trust to hold general land for investment purposes.

It reverts land owned by the Wi Pere Trust, which was general land at the time it was acquired, to its original general land status.

These changes will allow the Trust to exercise greater economic autonomy in the management of its landholdings.

The Māori Purposes Bill clarifies the relationship between Te Ture Whenua Māori Act 1993 and the legislation governing the Wi Pere Trust.

It also clarifies the respective jurisdictions of the Māori Land Court and the High Court with respect to the Trust.

The High Court will have jurisdiction over matters relating to governance and general land held by the Wi Pere Trust.

The Māori Land Court will have jurisdiction in relation to Māori freehold land held by the Wi Pere Trust.

A new Te Ture Whenua Māori Bill is being drafted; these future changes may impact on the amended Māori Purposes Act 1991, though the Act will likely only require consequential amendments to update references to the new Te Ture Whenua Māori Act.

The Bill provides a framework tailored to the needs of the Wi Pere Trust to govern itself, while maintaining key protections for Māori land set out in Te Ture Whenua Māori Act 1993.

The amendments to the Māori Purposes Act 1991 were initiated at the request of representatives of the Wi Pere Trust.

Representatives of the Trust have been closely involved in the development of the Māori Purposes Bill.

The trustees consulted formally with beneficiaries in 2009, and again in 2013.

Of the beneficiaries who voted on the amendments, 91 percent supported the changes to the Trust, as given effect by the Bill.

Finally, the Bill corrects a minor technical error in the Māori Trust Boards (Transitional Provisions) Order 2012.

This Order specifies the transition dates for those Māori trust boards transferring to revised financial accountability requirements under the updated Māori Trust Boards Act 1955.

The Order mistakenly refers to the Tauranga Moana Māori Trust Board as the “Tauranga Māori Trust Board”; The Māori Purposes Bill corrects this error.

In conclusion, I thank those who participated in the consultation on these amendments.

I am confident that these amendments will contribute to the autonomy of the Wi Pere Trust to manage its own affairs, and will enable a successful Māori enterprise to operate more effectively in a commercial environment.

Mr Speaker, I commend this Bill to the House.

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