Pre-publication report on claims about the reform of Te Ture Whenua Māori Act 1993 released

The Report on Claims About the Reform of Te Ture Whenua Māori Act 1993, released today in pre-publication format, is the outcome of three claims from Māori landowners.

Marise Lant, the named claimant for Wai 2478, is a former Māori Land Court staffer. Her claim was supported by Te Whānau a Kai. Cletus Maanu Paul, the named claimant for Wai 2480, is the co-chair of the New Zealand Māori Council and the chair of the Mataatua District Māori Council. His claim was made on behalf of the Mataatua District Māori Council and Moewhare. The Wai 2512 claimants were Lorraine Norris, Michael Beazley, William Kapea, Owen Kingi, Ani Taniwha, Justyne Te Tana, Pouri Harris, Vivienne Taueki, and Tamati Reid. They submitted their claim on behalf of a range of hapū from around the North Island.

The Tribunal hearings took place in Wellington from 11 to 13 November 2015 and on 9 December 2015. The panel appointed to hear the claims comprised Ron Crosby (presiding), Miriama Evans, Professor Rawinia Higgins, Professor Sir Hirini Mead, and Dr Grant Phillipson.

In June 2012, the Associate Minister of Māori Affairs appointed an independent review panel to review Te Ture Whenua Māori Act 1993. After the panel submitted its final report to the Associate Minister in July 2013, the Crown accepted the panel’s recommendations that the 1993 Act should be repealed and replaced by a new legislative regime with owner autonomy as the central focus. After nearly two years of development, the Crown released an exposure draft of the new Bill in May 2015 and invited submissions. The Bill proposed to replace existing protections for landowners exercised by the Māori Land Court with a new regime empowering ‘participating owners’.

In its report, the Tribunal considered both the review and reform process and the provisions of the new Bill, which the Crown intended to introduce to Parliament in March 2016.

The Tribunal found that the Crown would be in breach of Treaty principles if it did not ensure that there was properly-informed, broad-based support from Māori for the new Bill to proceed. Māori landowners, and their whānau, hapū, and iwi, would be prejudiced if the 1993 Act were repealed ‘against their wishes, and without ensuring adequate and appropriate arrangements for all the matters governed by that Act’.

With regard to the provisions of the Bill, the Tribunal noted that Treaty principles do not require any one specific form of protection mechanism, so long as it is effective and has the properly informed, broad-based support of Māori. However, the Tribunal concluded that a number of the Bill’s provisions nullified or weakened the mechanisms intended to ensure the retention of Māori land. That was inconsistent with the Crown’s duty of active protection.

Other aspects of the Bill relating to succession and compulsory dispute resolution, the Tribunal found, were also inconsistent with Treaty principles.

The Tribunal recommended that the Crown avoid prejudice to Māori by engaging further nationally via hui and written submissions, after ensuring that Māori are properly informed by means of empirical research. The Tribunal also made a number of other general and specific recommendations to the Crown concerning both the review and reform process and the new Bill.

The Waitangi Tribunal’s report is now available to download: He Kura Whenua ka Rokohanga [PDF, 2.87MB](external link)

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