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Thursday, September 17, 2015

Maori Land Court judges slam reform bill

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A major rewrite of Maori land law has been slammed by the judges who will administer any new legislation.
The bench of the Maori Land Court has laid out its concerns in a 163 page submission to the ministerial advisory group on Te Ture Whenua Maori Bill.
Waatea News editor Adam Gifford says the confidential submission is a blow to a piece of law Maori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell wants to make a centrepiece of the Maori Party’s reform agenda.
The judges say they support the stated objectives of the reform to empower Maori landowners, simplify procedures and enhance protection of Maori land as a taonga tuku iho or treasure handed down.
But the bill as drafted won’t achieve those objectives, and in many cases will do the opposite.
They say it will undermine core property rights of Maori landowners, transfer a surprising level of authority over Maori land to Crown officials, and contravene fundamental elements of tikanga Maori.
The judges says the bill should not proceed in its current form, and the stated policy objectives can be better advanced by a significant rewrite of the bill or by targeted amendments to the current legislation.
The judges say the drafters of the bill don’t seem to understand how the existing Act works in practice.
Some of its initiatives will bring back previous policies that have failed or have been the subject of treaty claims and settlements that recognise those failings.
The bill was originally the project of Attorney General and Associate Maori Affairs Minister Christopher Finlayson, with the rationale that the existing law was holding back the development of Maori land to the tune of billions of dollars.
Maori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell wrested control as part of his support agreement with National, but the critique from the bench may cause him to question whether it’s worth pursuing.

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