3 Feb 2020

Winners announced for $30 million of investment in Māori land

11:08 am on 3 February 2020

New Zealand's first taro plantation, a mountain bike track and expansions to blueberry, cherry, kiwifruit and macadamia orchards are just some of the winners announced today, who will share in $30 million of investment in Maori land.

Auckland Port's days are numbered - Shane Jones

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones. Photo: RNZ / YouTube

At Waitangi last year the Government announced it was setting aside $100 million for Whenua Māori, aimed at creating new economic opportunities, through Provincial Growth Funding.

Today the Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones confirmed 30 initiatives across eight regions, totalling about $30m that have been approved, with another $40m of applications currently being assessed.

Finding investment-ready proposals has required great partnership between our officials at the Provincial Development Unit and the various groups that own these underutilised blocks of land,'' Jones said.

The provincial growth funding helps by giving access to capital, which is a challenge for Māori landowners as the status of the land means commercial banks are less willing to lend money.

Seven of the initiatives announced today are based in the Northland region and together will receive more than $6m, Jones said.

The announcement at Kaikohe was attended by Jones and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern - the first announcement in a week of events in Northland leading up to Waitangi Day commemorations on Thursday.

"I'm pleased that through the PGF we're in a unique position to support these landowners,'' Jones said.

"Some landowners need to do some fundamental work to remediate their land after poor lease arrangements over long periods of time, or because land has reverted to gorse or unproductive scrub."

"I'm proud of the work we've done in this important space and confident the allocation will be fully committed in the next six months.

The partnerships we're announcing today are integral to developing our regional economies and providing Māori landowners the opportunity to create their own wealth, raise incomes and wellbeing,'' he said.

Clearing scrub, fencing and fertilising unused hectares are projects that have also received a government boost, along with improvements to aerodromes and converting beef and sheep land to lucerne crops.

Local Government and Māori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta was also at the event, and announced a reduction in rating barriers for owners of Māori land who want to use and develop it.

There is around 1.4 million hectares of Māori freehold land, and much of it is unused or under-developed, Mahuta said.

Owners of Māori land have aspirations to use and develop their whenua [land], but they face a number of unique challenges, including unpaid rates arrears.

This package of changes will break the deadlock where rates arrears prevents development from happening, and the emphasis will be on enabling whenua to be developed in order to meet rating expectations,'' Mahuta said.

Under the proposal, local authority Chief Executives have the power to write off rates arrears on all land (including general land) if they consider the rates are unrecoverable, including rates arrears inherited from deceased owners of Māori land.

Most of the rates arrears on Māori freehold land are on unused land, and from unpaid penalties rather than the original rates bills, she said.

This proposal would give current owners a clean slate so they can start afresh.

Owners will be able to bring proposals to their local council without the fear of having to pay rates arrears before starting any kind of development,'' Mahuta said.

The proposed legislative changes will ensure that there is greater consistency across the country, and provide greater clarity on what kind of Māori land is non-rateable, she said.

The changes will require legislative amendments that will be introduced in the first half of this year.

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