Unlocking gates for whānau Māori to access their whenua

updated By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

The Matuaokore Ahuwhenua Trust holds one of the few remaining pieces of Māori freehold land in the Gisborne area, but like many of these land titles it's "landlocked". Today, for the first time, they were granted vehicle access, just in time for the special visit by Minister Nanaia Mahuta.

Investing in Māori land was the focus of the 2019 Budget announcements made by Minister Nanaia Mahuta in Gisborne today, with over $50m being allocated over four years towards whenua Māori.

“We just can't get up here until now, first time the gates been opened and we can actually drive up,” says Phil Hokianga.

Chair of Matuaokore Ahuwhenua Trust, Tammi Hokianga says, “We've been landlocked for many, many, many years and our parents have struggled to even get through the front gate to get to this whenua. So, we've made progress in terms of being able to open up that front gateway and to get this far, but look we need to go further.”

Around 5% of land in Aotearoa remains in Māori freehold title, but a third of it is currently 'landlocked', meaning that whānau don't have access to their land.

Mahuta says, “To build and develop on the land, that funding comes under the PGF (Provincial Growth Fund), but the benefits of this initiative are for those who haven't yet started.” 

The families of the Matuaokore Ahuwhenua Trust welcome the announcements made today by government.

Tammi Hokianga says, “The ability to know where to go, how to go, how to use tools, how to get to places, we've sort of done this as a hit and miss exercise. We've tried various ways that haven't worked, we've tried again, but the processes that they intend to put in place now are going to make it much, much, easier.”

Mahuta says the $56.1 m allocation to whenua Māori in Budget 2019 will support whānau on the ground, in the Māori Land Court and with digital resources.

“To make it easier to access the land, to assist families in bringing their aspirations under one trust, and to make it easier for them to gain the title,” she says.

“Had this been in place three years ago, which is when we started this journey ourselves, I think we would have been a lot further along than now,” says Tammi Hokianga.

Matuaokore Ahuwhenua Trust is looking at making access easier so they can develop the land.