A lifetime supporting Māori land development

By Jessica Tyson

For more than 50 years, Peter Little has worked in the development and administration of Māori Land and today is being honoured as a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his services.

Little, from Carterton, began his career in the 1960’s in the development and administration of Māori land with the former Department of Māori Affairs and Island Affairs in Taumaranui.

“I was involved in the supervision and development of Māori land in some of those big blocks around the bottom of Lake Taupō and the Kuratau area, he told Te Kāea.

“I probably was trained by the farm managers of the time more than me being the boss of the supervisors," he laughed.

He says being honoured in the New Years 2019 list is “quite humbling".

“Any recognition such as this is always an honour and unexpected. You don’t know who ultimately nominated you.”

After working in several roles for the Ministers of Māori Affairs during the period 1990 to 2005, he became Manager of the Land Management Unit within Te Puni Kōkiri.

In this role he implemented the Land Disposal Strategy, designed to wind down the Land Management portfolio through approaches that would support Māori land owners.

Since first working in Māori land redevelopment he says, “There’s still an awful lot of Māori land that you’d probably say is not managed to its full potential and, in a lot of cases, is not even managed.”

But he says the general intention of supporting Māori landowners to administer and manage their own land is being encouraged.

“There are various programs in support available for those owns these days,” says Little.

From 2006 to 2008 he contributed to policy development in relation to the rating of Māori land, Māori land tenure, and the Māori Land Action Plan.

He also Little played a key role in the re-establishment of the Ahuwhenua Maori Farming competition in the early 2000s and the establishment of the Young Maori Farmer Award in 2012, of which he is now the panel’s Lead Judge.

“Some of these young adults are exceedingly competent and confident and capable. It’s a pleasure to be able to recognise those people.”

Little says he retired in 2016 but is still called on to offer advice to governmental leaders.