Govt to fund $56.1m to develop whenua Māori

updated By Jessica Tyson, Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

The government has today announced an investment of $56.1 million over four years into the development of whenua, Māori freehold landowners and their whānau.

This comes after plans for a Whenua Māori Programme were first announced earlier this year.

The programme supports Māori landowners, trustees and whānau across the spectrum to expand their operations and seek opportunities, says Māori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta. The spectrum includes those establishing ownership interests and governance structures, through to owners who are ready to expand their operations and seek opportunities.

“Our focus is on stimulating social and economic development through the 1.4 million hectares of whenua Māori that remains in Māori freehold title,” says Mahuta.

“The Whenua Māori Programme recognises the challenges facing Māori freehold landowners and the value of pursuing opportunities which will lead to the sustainable and inter-generational development of the land and its people,” she says.

The investment will enable regional on-the-ground advisory services in Te Tai Tokerau, Waiariki and Te Tairāwhiti;  the creation of a Whenua Knowledge Hub and website; new and enhanced services for the Māori Land Court; the modernisation of the Māori Land Court information systems; and support for legislative amendments to Te Ture Whenua Māori Act 1993, she says.

The cross-government programme is being co-led by Te Puni Kōkiri and the Ministry of Justice.

Justice Minister Andrew Little says the changes proposed for the Māori Land Court will better support landowners to access justice services.

“The introduction of a tikanga-focussed dispute resolution service offers Māori landowners a way to settle matters outside of a formal court hearing,” he says.

Mahuta says, “This is an exciting and ambitious programme that I expect will significantly lift the inter-generational wellbeing of Māori landowners, their descendants and their regions for many years to come.”