First right to buy Presbyterian land is good but returning the land would be better

By James Perry

The Presbyterian Church's decision to offer iwi the first right of refusal for any land has been welcomed by Māori members of the church.

The policy was voted on at the church's recent general assembly, with an overwhelming majority in favour, 121-12. 

Hone Te Rire, who is an Amorangi Minister within the church told teaomā it was a significant moment for the church. 

The church is one of the biggest landowners in Aotearoa, with land and building assets estimated to be worth more than $1 billion in value. The policy voted in by the church will see any future land considered for sale will be first offered to local iwi to purchase.

However, Te Rire says that land acquired through confiscation, which he says is most of the church land, should be returned at no cost.

"Mehemea kei te pērā, whakahokia mai, kore utu. He whenua tākoha, kua tākoha atu, tākoha mai. 
(Any land that fits that description, give it back! That goes for any land gifted also, if it was gifted, gift it back!)

Te Rire is also wary of the policy's implementation, despite the overwhelming support at the general assembly.

"Ahakoa te kōrero o te Motareta o te hāhi matua, kei ia pāriha o te hāhi Perehepitiriana te tikanga me pēhea te whakatinanahia o te take mō te whenua."
(Despite the proclamation by the church moderator, each parish within the church has its own authority over the land use.)