• Tau Henare
Maori Affairs

I want to respond to some of the inaccurate and misleading statements that Mr Lyn Williams (spokesperson for the Taranaki Settlement Reserves Lessees Association) recently made regarding the Maori Reserved Land Amendment Bill, which is currently before the Justice and Law Reform Select Committee.

Misleading Statement #1: Lessees private property is to be expropriated to settle a Treaty grievance

The Bill does not address a Treaty grievance. Currently the owners and lessees of these lands are not in a fair commercial leasing arrangement. Owners are unable to charge a normal commercial rental for their land which is leased by the farmers. The Bill will simply place lessees and owners on a more commercial footing and give both parties the opportunity to purchase the other's interest at market value. It is totally misleading to suggest that the Bill will expropriate private property rights.

Misleading Statement #2: Compensation proposed is significantly less than lessees real losses. Farming families will be forced off their land.

Compensation to lessees is based on the likely increase in rentals that they will have to pay resulting from the movement to a normal commercial rental arrangement. Lessees have made much of the effect that these changes will have on the value of their interest. Their scare-mongering has been a major factor contributing to any drop in the price at which Taranaki reserved land leasehold properties are currently trading. The second factor is the general downturn across the entire agricultural sector, resulting in lower sale prices for both leasehold AND freehold farming properties. I am confident that once the reforms occur, the market will stabilize.

In addition, it is completely misleading to suggest that farmers will be forced off their land because of this Bill. Mr Williams seems to be under the mistaken impression that the lessees own the land they lease. Lets be very clear about this, THEY DO NOT. The Maori owners have legal title to these lands.

Misleading Statement #3: The inclusion of Clause 16 denying lessees the right to prove additional loss is draconian.

This provision applies equally to the lessees as it does to the owners, and it simply states that the compensation provided to both parties under the Bill represents all the compensation that they are entitled to for the changes brought about by the Bill. If this is "draconian" then so is every other fiscally responsible action that the Government has taken in the interests of the tax-paying public!

Misleading Statement #4: Taranaki lessees are different and should be separated from this Bill.

The 270 Taranaki lessee farmers are absolutely no different from the 1,700 other lessees in Wellington, Nelson, Palmerston North, Hokitika, Westport, Greymouth, Auckland, Rotorua, Kawhia, Te Araroa and elsewhere affected by these reforms.

Misleading Statement #5: Valuation information relied upon by the Crown is "provably" faulty. Lessees have been denied the opportunity to challenge this.

The valuations were taken as at 31 December1995, a time when dairy land values were at a peak. However, such values are only used to calculate compensation - they play no part in settling future rent.

Finally, I want to state for the record that I believe the Maori Reserved Land Amendment Bill is fair to both lessees and owners. It recognises that lessees will have to pay more under the new market based leasing arrangement, and provides fair compensation to lessees for those changes. It also achieves the objective of providing the Maori owners with an opportunity to regain control of the land that they have legal title to, if they wish, by purchasing the lessees interests at negotiated or market value when the opportunity arises. I commend this Bill to you and ask that you support its passage through the House.