Tribunal to hear opposition to Maori land review

7:40 am on 5 October 2015

An East Coast Māori landowner who said a review of Māori land laws would undermine her rights has made a strong enough case to be heard by the Waitangi Tribunal.

Marise Lant has been granted an urgent hearing by the Tribunal for her claims opposing the Crown's review of Te Ture Whenua Māori Act 1993.

Other claimants who also made applications to the Tribunal, including the New Zealand Māori Council, will be heard at the same time.

Ms Lant, of Te Tairāwhiti, attended one of the first hui about the proposed review of laws governing Māori land more than two and a half years ago.

The former Maori Land Court officer said most of the questions landowners had could not be answered, which raised alarm bells for her, and she had had her suspicions about the review since then.

"One of the first things that should have been taken into consideration was the rights of Māori landowners to actually engage in a more meaningful way in terms of the bill," she said.

"The bill should have been something that Māori initiated and in this case I don't believe they did."

Māori Council to speak at hearing

The New Zealand Māori Council will also get a voice at the hearing.

Tairāwhiti branch chair Owen Rutherford Lloyd said at stake was is the last 2.5 million acres of Māori land.

"By the time my grandchildren get old enough to even look at their grandmother's lands, it will all be gone and it will be under the control of the corporates, that's the Māori corporations."

"Now, they are not iwi, they are corporates, they just happen to be brown. But their hearts and their mind is to make money for the corporates, not for the people."

Owen Rutherford Lloyd said the hearing would enable them to speak for those who could not.

"To put a case forward for the people who haven't got the capacity or the capability to actually stand up and fight for that .01 of a share, or their .0001 of a share but that's all they've got left that connects them to the land. And this is going to be, to a certain degree, a process eventually to take it away from them."

Ms Lant said the hearing would allow them to go through the information that would finally be disclosed to them about the review.

"We were having great difficulty getting access to information in terms of our OIA [Official Information Act] requests previously.

"This is going to help us build a more significant stance. Not that I don't believe we have one now, but it's going to confirm the fears we always knew were there."

The draft exposure Te Ture Whenua bill went out for a third round of consultation in June, and extended the submission period to give more time for feedback.

About 400 submissions are being looked at by ministerial advisors.

Māori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell, who is spearheading the review, said he had tried to have a full consultation.

"I've changed the timeline I had to introduce it to the house, I've had workshops for key stakeholder groups, and three times around the motu in terms of consultation and it hasn't even hit parliament yet.

"I thought that we had done enough, but so be it."

Mr Flavell said he would push forward with the review, and any tribunal decision that may affect the bill would have to be dealt with as it comes.

The Waitangi Tribunal hearing is to be held in November.

The decision to grant the hearing comes at a poignant time, marking the 40th anniversary of the 1975 Māori land march lead by Dame Whina Cooper.

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs