Plan change to enable papakainga developments

By Alexandra Newlove -
Juliane Chetham.
Juliane Chetham.

Traditional Maori communities could be re-established in Northland, if changes to council rules governing the 5 per cent of Whangarei land held in multiple Maori ownership go through.

But an adviser says the barriers blocking development on Maori land are complex and need multiple approaches.

Whangarei District Council's Papakainga Plan Change (94B) is about to go out for public consultation, meaning no resource consent would be required for development on Maori freehold land administered under Te Ture Whenua Maori Act.

The council's planning committee chairman, Greg Innes, described the plan as "on a leading edge". But while the committee's Maori adviser, Juliane Chetham, agreed it was a good first step, she said many barriers remained to the development of the land.

About 14,350ha, 5 per cent of the Whangarei district's total 282,000ha, is ancestral Maori land held in 868 individual parcels, mostly near the western boundary of the district and along the eastern coastline.

Ms Chetham said the plan change could help re-establish traditional Maori communities in Northland.

"The provisions allow for that kind of holistic community that [Maori] used to have. That could include marae, kohanga, elderly housing, health-related facilities and even environmental facilities," she said.

Proposed changes to Te Ture Whenua Maori Act would also allow councils to forgive rates arrears on unproductive land, if owners demonstrated a commitment to developing it. Mr Chetham said remaining barriers included a risk of further restrictive rules under Northland Regional Council's recognition of "outstanding natural landscapes" in its regional policy statement.

The main restricting factor to developing Maori land - outside the scope of council - was the difficulty in obtaining loans. Effectively, multiply owned Maori land cannot be valued or sold on the open market, so banks are wary of their lack of security.

The first phase of the plan change became operative in 2011.

New changes meant papakainga developments were allowed, subject to building consent and effluent disposal requirements.

Mr Innes said the new changes would "take the bureaucracy out of the development of [Maori] land".

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