With Treasury forecasting house prices to increase by 18.3% in the next four years, it is timely to review how whanau can utilise their interests in multiply owned Māori land for housing.
Interests in Māori land are usually expressed in terms of shares, with each owner holding a specific number of shares alongside other shareholders. These shares do not attach to any specific area, and as a starting point, all owners are equally entitled to use the land within the block.
Licences to Occupy (granted by trustees) and Occupation Orders under section 328 of Te Ture Whenua Māori Act 1993 are the two mechanisms by which a particular area (house site) can be reserved for the exclusive use of a particular shareholder.
In order to obtain an Occupation Order, a shareholder would need to produce a sketch plan of the area that he or she wishes to occupy and obtain approval from the trustees for the block (if any) and from the other shareholders. Such approvals are usually obtained at a properly notified meeting of the shareholders.
Provided the size of the area is commensurate with the applicant’s shareholding, and there is a sufficient degree of support among the other shareholders, an Occupation Order will generally be granted. With the Licence to Occupy or Occupation Order in hand, the shareholder can then seek funding assistance (such as Kiwibank/TPK and KiwiSaver) and approach the relevant district and regional councils for the necessary consents.
This process can be confusing and disheartening. The Office of the Auditor-General has commented that one of the greatest obstacles [to building on Māori land] is that there is no one agency that a prospective homeowner can approach for assistance. The different agencies, (Kiwibank, KiwiSaver, and Councils and the Māori Land Court) do not adequately understand each other’s processes, policies and requirements, therefore, making the process overly complicated for prospective owners.
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These policies and procedures are not always straightforward. At Morrison Kent, our Māori land and property development lawyers have the expertise to guide you through the often complex process. We can help to bridge the gap between the necessary agencies and provide clear steps to help you obtain your desired outcome. If you would like to learn more about how we can assist you, please contact Karissa Walbank or Curtis Bidois based in our Rotorua Office on 07 348 2020 or give our Wellington Office a call on 04 472 0020.