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Stronger protection for Maori land

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 30/03/2017

Proposed law changes will make it more difficult to acquire Maori land under the Public Works Act.

Maori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell is going to put the amendments to the Act in the Te Ture Whenua Maori Bill, which is going through parliament.

The bill rewrites the laws around Maori land ownership. It's designed to ensure there are sufficient safeguards for the retention of Maori land while making it easier for owners to make decisions about how they use it.

Mr Flavell can insert new provisions into the bill when it comes up for its committee stage next week.

"The changes include amendments to the Public Works Act 1981," he said.

"The taking of land for public works has had a significant impact on Maori land - in the past, legislation allowed easier acquisition of Maori land with less access to compensation, and Maori land has been reduced to just over five per cent of all land.

"The changes to the Public Works Act 1981 will require authorities to have a strong justification to acquire Maori land, and where possible the amount of land taken should be minimised."

Mr Flavell told reporters any agency that wanted to acquire Maori land under the Act would face a stronger test in future.

He also intends inserting several other provisions in the bill, including minor changes to the rating of jointly-owned Maori land.

He also wants to ensure the Maori Land Court has jurisdiction when claims relate to estates with interests in Maori freehold land.

The bill is controversial, and the Labour Party has vowed to repeal it if it wins the election.

Mr Flavell has been accused by some Maori leaders of failing to properly consult on the bill, which he rejects.

It's been through 17 drafts and there were numerous hui to discuss it.

"This must be the most consulted on bill that's ever come to parliament," Mr Flavell said.

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