4 Jun 2012

Expert panel to review Maori land legislation

2:36 pm on 4 June 2012

The chair of a Government-appointed panel that will to review Maori-owned land says better use of the land would benefit owners and entire iwi.

The Government wants the panel to scrutinise the Ture Whenua Maori Act, with the aim of unlocking the economic potential of Maori land.

The legislation is relevant to more than 27,000 blocks of land covering about 1.42 million hectares.

A report in March by the then Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry estimated that up to 80% of Maori land was underperforming for its owners, in many cases because of structural issues that stemmed from the legislation.

Panel chair Matanuku Mahuika says getting the land working will improve life for Maori living in rural areas where jobs could be created.

"It does benefit the owners of the land, but also there are some rural communities which have large amounts of Maori land that's unproductive, and the fact that land is unproductive has an effect on the economy of that entire community."

Associate Maori Affairs Minister Chris Finlayson says issues affecting performance include compliance costs associated with the Act.

"If we can devise methods that enable owners to get access to capital, we're talking the potential for big, big sums of money for iwi and hapu and whanau."

Mr Finlayson says it is a major project and not without difficulty.