11 Jun 2013

Help needed to break in unproductive whenua

9:40 pm on 11 June 2013

A Maori chartered accountant says Maori landowners need to start hiring the "right people" to help unlock the economic potential of their whenua.

Kylee Potae, a partner at accountancy firm BDO, works with Maori land trusts and incorporations.

She says as a Maori landowner herself she supports any review or change that improves rules and regulations governing Maori land, if the end result is positive for Maori and for economic growth.

Te Ture Whenua Land Act review panel has been touring the country visiting iwi to get their views on the 20-year-old Act with a view to developing new legislation.

Almost 1 million hectares of Maori freehold land is underproductive, according to a 2011 report by the former Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.

But Ms Potae says the reality is that Maori landowners face huge challenges breaking in some of their unproductive land, and they can't do it alone.

She says there is a lot that can be done if Maori are determined to get a slice of the $8 billion pie that the Government is projecting could be made by making Maori land more productive.

Ms Potae says the terrain of the whenua makes some hard to farm, and the Government needs to be realistic about what Maori landowners can achieve.

But she says if you have the right people at the right level - even they are not Maori - who are passionate about developing Maori land, then it is not impossible.