4 Feb 2019

National leader Simon Bridges urges RMA reform over $100m for Māori land ownership

9:54 am on 4 February 2019

The government is making the same mistake with Māori land ownership as it did with KiwiBuild, National party leader Simon Bridges says.

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Simon Bridges Photo: RNZ / Conan Young

Yesterday Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones announced that the government's Provincial Growth Fund would spend $100 million on supporting Māori landowners to make better use of their land.

Today Mr Bridges told Morning Report the government was just throwing money at the issue and although $100 million sounded like a lot of money it would just "scratch the surface" for a select few.

"It may be a bit harsh but I think it's a waste of money. You're throwing it at a select few but you're not actually going to help Māori."

Mr Bridges said he would instead help Māori land ownership through law reform.

At yesterday's announcement Ms Ardern said 80 percent of Māori freehold land was under-utilised and unproductive because the special status of some land made getting loans difficult.

Mr Jones also said the biggest barrier to development of Māori land had been lack of access to finance, and greater productivity would have enormous benefits for regional economies.

Mr Bridges said the government was making the same mistake as it had with KiwiBuild.

"They think if they splash some cash at something there's good politics in it. But just as with Kiwibuild what you actually have to do is hard law reform around the Resource Management Act," he said.

"The one thing that is required is Te Ture Whenua Māori land reform. That's what's got to happen because the complex legal intricacies of multiple owners mean it's always going to be incredibly difficult to do this unless you get that law reform. It's not a question of the financing."

Mr Bridges said he would not be going along to listen to what Don Brash says at Waitangi but supported his right to say what he wants to say.

"I think it's a good thing that he gets the chance to go up there and say his piece."

When asked what he made of Mr Brash's Orewa speech and the idea that Māori get special privileges Mr Bridges said that in simple terms he entirely agreed things shouldn't be done on the basis of race.

"But we should be doing things on the basis of need ... that means things like whānau ora, like partnership schools, like Te Ture Whenua Māori land reform that disproportionally affect and will benefit Māoridom are right.

"In that regard I think what Don's saying just isn't nuanced enough for the modern world that we live in."

However Mr Bridges said New Zealand should get rid off Māori seats.

"We have more Māori in parliament now than ever under MMP but that will be something that I think it would be wrong to do without Māoridom themselves wanting and seeking that sort of change."

New Zealand "shouldn't beat ourselves up" about race relations, Mr Bridges said.

"In relation to many, many other comparisons we could make, New Zealand is an incredibly successful country where overall we are doing well.

"None of that means we've got there, there's a huge amount more that we need to do. We know the statistics, we know what is going on. My view is what we need to see this year - because I agree with the Prime Minister on a year of delivery - is a plan for New Zealand and a plan for Māori."