Iwi chairs want Independent Māori Land Services in the regions

By Dean Nathan

Iwi chairs are calling for Independent Māori Land Services in the regions to increase productivity on Māori Freehold lands. It follows the completion of case studies in five regions to gauge the potential for Māori land use. 

Walter Wells is the Deputy Chair of the Ngāti Kuri Trust Board and co-leads the case study looking at the potential to boost annual productivity on Māori Freehold Land in Northland by $150M per annum.

He says, "What’s been clear in the discussions that we've had with landowners is that it's not necessarily their focus. Productivity for economic benefits is one thing but actually being connected to their whenua is more important and having a much more holistic view of what opportunities for land use are."

Initiated by Te Puni Kokiri in August, the case studies were completed in September with some landowners voicing their concerns.

Professor Patu Hohepa told Te Kaea, "I think we need to put more focus on the health of the land and look at new strategies to achieve sustainability in the modern era."

Huhana Lyndon was shocked at the speed at which the research was completed, "Some of us weren't even aware it was taking place and all of a sudden there is a report telling us how to get more productivity out of our lands. It's a bit of a shock for landowners," she says.

The reports found that while Maori landowners are much more considered on options outside of primary industries, they deal with a high level of complexity around finding support, advice and finance and access to resources along with the challenge of building capacity.  Walter Wells says the regional reports are currently being consolidated into a business case to put to Government.

Mr Wells says, "Regardless of what the Government decisions are around the business case I think we've got a report that allows us to advocate for regional investment. Each region is clear that they would like to progress a Māori Land Service."

Any new decisions will be made after the establishment of a new government.