14 Aug 2018

Finance an issue for building on communal Māori land - wananga

8:07 pm on 14 August 2018

Māori housing organisations are trying to find ways for finance to be secured for housing to be built on communally-owned land.

Minister for Maori Development and Local Government Nanaia Mahuta.

Māori Development Minster Nanaia Mahuta. Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

Housing advocacy organisation Te Matapihi today hosted a wananga to try and find a solution to what Māori Development Minster Nanaia Mahuta called "one of the biggest barriers that most whanau face": how to get finance to build on collectively-owned Māori land.

Its chairman Rau Hoskins said most Māori would have shares in one or more land block.

"Five and a half per cent of Aotearoa is in Māori land ownership and if you were to ask a Māori person with shares in any of those 60,000 blocks of land, would they like to return to their papakāinga - or their ancestral land - to build? Most of them would say yes."

Di Grennell, deputy chief executive of Māori development ministry Te Puni Kōkiri, said that pertained particularly to Māori land in rural New Zealand.

She said land could be owned by hundreds of people, and that would also would need to be taken into consideration before building.

Finance was an issue that came up time and time again, she said.

"A number of groups have had papakāinga aspirations and so we've seen a number built and a number underway. But this barrier is one that comes up; it can delay the progress. And for some people it can make it too difficult so they withdraw from the process."

At today's wananga, the room was split into five working groups with each one trying to come up with solutions.

Representatives from business consultancy EY added their know-how to the discussion.

Social sector lead Hamiora Bowkett said some iwi were trying to organise themselves in a way that worked for commercial lenders.

"If you think about a bank, they will lend to an organisation that can identify itself as the owner, they will lend if they can get their risk managed, they will lend if there's income to cover the principal. I think the difficulty we face is when one of those factors is missing."

However, Mr Bowkett said the commercial lenders should have a look at their policies when it comes to collective land, too.

"Could a bank, for example, lend to an intermediary who then lends on to the individual owners who might want to have housing on land?"

Perhaps the government could become a lender.

"There was a time when government agencies in the past did provide equity or financial instruments to help people get into their homes. So perhaps revisiting those past settings is a possibility," Mr Bowkett said.

EY and Te Matapihi will put together a policy briefing paper to the Māori Development Minister based on today's conference.