Maori land reforms could help resolve rates headache

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A problem that has dogged this district for decades, the issue of unproductive multiply-owned Maori land, is centre stage with the latest moves by the Government to try to resolve the situation.

Reforms proposed by Maori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell include giving councils more powers to deal with rates arrears on unoccupied land, which is a major problem here.

The Government wants to provide councils with the ability to remove rates arrears on unoccupied and unused land where there is a demonstrable commitment to use or occupy land, and there is otherwise little prospect of the land ever being used or occupied.

Gisborne District Council established a Whenua Rahui register to remit rates on this type of land.

It has been far from a smooth process however. Regular applications for remissions are dealt with by the performance, audit and risk committee, and there are often debates about whether land should be included.

A new complication has arisen from the fact some of this land is now being used for producing manuka honey, but locating where hives may have been put is proving to be all but impossible.

Finding a way of utilising under-productive Maori land was one of the major projects attempted by the former Tairawhiti Development Taskforce.

The GDC’s total rates debt for Maori land is $4.38 million, or 67 percent of the overall total of $6.49m. Eighty percent of rates debt on Maori land is penalties.

Constantly adding penalties when Maori land cannot be taken for sale seems on the face of it a pointless exercise.

There are 103 properties on the Whenua Rahui register. The total value of rates forgone on these properties this year is $91,200.

Mayor Meng Foon says he will meet with Mr Flavell and fellow Minister Pesata Sam Lotu-Iiga to discuss the issue, and how the proposals could benefit this district. Whether the Government’s wider reform proposals for Maori land will be a magic bullet, or even get off the ground, is another matter.

A problem that has dogged this district for decades, the issue of unproductive multiply-owned Maori land, is centre stage with the latest moves by the Government to try to resolve the situation.

Reforms proposed by Maori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell include giving councils more powers to deal with rates arrears on unoccupied land, which is a major problem here.

The Government wants to provide councils with the ability to remove rates arrears on unoccupied and unused land where there is a demonstrable commitment to use or occupy land, and there is otherwise little prospect of the land ever being used or occupied.

Gisborne District Council established a Whenua Rahui register to remit rates on this type of land.

It has been far from a smooth process however. Regular applications for remissions are dealt with by the performance, audit and risk committee, and there are often debates about whether land should be included.

A new complication has arisen from the fact some of this land is now being used for producing manuka honey, but locating where hives may have been put is proving to be all but impossible.

Finding a way of utilising under-productive Maori land was one of the major projects attempted by the former Tairawhiti Development Taskforce.

The GDC’s total rates debt for Maori land is $4.38 million, or 67 percent of the overall total of $6.49m. Eighty percent of rates debt on Maori land is penalties.

Constantly adding penalties when Maori land cannot be taken for sale seems on the face of it a pointless exercise.

There are 103 properties on the Whenua Rahui register. The total value of rates forgone on these properties this year is $91,200.

Mayor Meng Foon says he will meet with Mr Flavell and fellow Minister Pesata Sam Lotu-Iiga to discuss the issue, and how the proposals could benefit this district. Whether the Government’s wider reform proposals for Maori land will be a magic bullet, or even get off the ground, is another matter.

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