Maori land ownership
Māori see land as tūrangawaewae, a place to stand. It is central to Māori identity. Māori land is also an economic foundation for the future, an asset with development potential.
In 2004 Māori owned only around 5% of New Zealand’s land mass. Much of tribal land was rugged or infertile, and 7% was unworkable. Historically small-scale holdings, multiple ownership and limited access to capital have hindered Māori wanting to develop their land – in the early 2000s an average Māori land holding was 59 hectares and had around 73 owners per title.
Reserve lands returned by the Crown to Māori were performing strongly in the agriculture sector in the early 2000s. They provided an economic base for Māori to grow businesses for shareholders of land, and re-establish a strong economic presence in tribal regions.
The Wakatu Incorporation was established in 1977, and in 2009 administered 1,400 hectares in the Nelson region, with 2,800 shareholders of an asset valued at $150 million in 2003. Wakatu Incorporation investments diversified into seafood, commercial property, horticulture, dairy farming, viticulture, property development and equities.
Parininihi ki Waitotara (PKW) Incorporation was set up in 1976 and in 2009 administered 350 leases, incorporating 22,000 hectares of West Coast Settlement Reserves in Taranaki. It had around 8,000 owners of an asset valued at $150 million in 2003, including 18 dairy farms. PKW was the single largest producer of milk solids in the Taranaki region. Poor returns from offshore investments in the early 2000s led the PKW board to focus on buying back leased Māori land, and to expand dairy farming operations on PKW lands.
Tuaropaki Trust was established to amalgamate the multiply-owned lands of the descendants of seven hapū located northwest of Taupō. The 2,708 hectares was returned to the owners in 1979. The total asset value of Tuaropaki Trust was $216 million in 2004. It had a yearly revenue of $27 million, and ran a surplus of $3.3 million. Business included a joint venture that established a geothermal power station, Mokai 1, tapping a geothermal steam field located directly beneath farm property. It produced sufficient power to light up around 100,000 homes. The Trust aimed ‘to gain the respect of our stakeholders and the community at large.’1
Lake Taupo Forestry Trust (LTFT) was established in 1969, bringing together 60 land blocks, comprising 31,000 hectares. In 2002 average total assets of LTFT stood at $170 million. LTFT was established as a joint forestry venture with the Crown. Ngāti Tūwharetoa owners forewent an annual rental for the lands in order to gain a share in the eventual profits from future felling, and have future management of exotic plantation development.