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Source: New Zealand Government

Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta has welcomed the Local Government (Rating of Whenua Māori) Amendment Bill passing its third reading today.

“After nearly 100 years of a system that was not fit for Māori and did not reflect the partnership we have come to expect between Māori and the Crown, I am proud to see this Bill pass through the House today,” said Nanaia Mahuta.

“The law relating to the rating of Māori land has remained largely unchanged since 1924. This has resulted in an underdevelopment of Māori land and level of rates arrears which unfairly represents the level of unpaid rates on Māori-owned land.

“This Bill will also be beneficial for local authorities and I am pleased that we have not had any speak against it. It will allow authorities to work with Māori land owners, providing for better engagement between local authorities and Māori to see what can be achieved in partnership with each other.

“Central Government is on a long journey to improve Māori Crown relations, and there is a place for local authorities alongside us on this journey.

“Provisions have also been introduced to better recognise the communal ownership of Māori land, and situations where multiple houses are situated on one block of Māori land.

“These circumstances were ignored when the rates rebate scheme was introduced in the 1970s and it is time to correct a wrong that has disadvantaged low income homeowners on Māori land for generations.

“This Bill is part of a wider set of initiatives the Government is working through that aim to provide Māori landowners with tools to support them to use, develop and live on their land, and to support whanau to reach their aspirations and the full potential of their land. Removing the obstacles so Māori and local authorities can develop strong relationships will be an invaluable contribution to future generations,” said Nanaia Mahuta.


 NB for Editors:

 The Bill amends the Local Government (Rating) Act 2002 to:

·        provide local authorities with the power to write off rates arrears and a statutory remission process for development;

·        make unused Māori land, including land subject to Ngā Whenua Rāhui kawenata, unrateable;

·        provide the option for separate rate accounts for multiple homes on Māori land (giving home owners access to the rates rebate scheme);

·        provide the opportunity for local authorities to treat multiple blocks of Māori land as one block for rating purposes, provided they came from the same original block; and

·        modernise the rating system affecting Māori land, including protecting Māori land arbitrarily reclassified as general land in the late 1960s and early 1970s from ‘abandoned land sales’, clarifying land trustees’ obligations in respect of rates, and updating and clarifying the exemptions that apply to marae and urupā.

The new provisions around land that becomes non-rateable, treating individual blocks as one and creating individual rates accounts for homes will come into force on 1 July 2021. This is to allow local authorities the time to do the necessary research and put in place the necessary systems so that the correct rating treatment can be applied.

The Bill also amends the Local Government Act 2002 to require certain local authority funding and financing policies to support the principles set out in the Preamble to Te Ture Whenua Māori Act 1993. Local authorities’ policy on the remission and postponement of rates on Māori freehold land must comply with the Bill by 1 July 2022, but the changes required for the other policies can be required as part of the normal planning and review cycles.

All other substantive provisions will come into force the day after Royal Assent.