23 Nov 2012

Unlocking value of Maori farmland essential - Finlayson

6:35 am on 23 November 2012

Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson says unlocking the value of under-utilised Maori farmland in the North Island is essential for the prosperity of both Maori and the economy.

Mr Finlayson told Federated Farmers national council in Wellington this week that an overhaul of Te Ture Whenua Maori (the Maori Land Act) is vital if Maori are to develop their land and realise its full potential.

He said 15% of the North Island, or thereabouts, is Maori land and 80% of it is under-developed.

The act has failed to make Maori land productive and he has appointed a team of Maori experts to investigate the issue and report back to the Government by the end of November.

Mr Finlayson said they are having a good look at Te Ture Whenua Maori so that ways can be found of making that land productive.

"I think that we're going to have to have a wholesale review of that legislation, I'm very keen, I regard it as one of my top priorities to progress that because I just think it's such a crying shame that so much of that land is under-developed," he said.

Federated Farmers president Bruce Wills said if New Zealand can resolve the financial issues surrounding titles to Maori land, everyone will benefit.

He said it's difficult to lend money against Maori land because of its multiple ownership.

But Mr Wills said a solution is needed because the land is valuable.