How's this for irony?
Thanks to the convoluted impacts of colonisation, Maori landowners are currently subsidising all New Zealanders by around $27 million a year, with almost no say in the matter.
As another Waitangi Day passes, this is as good an example as any of how often being Maori also just means getting the short end of the stick.
So, where does that $27m come from?
Simply put: it is the value of the greenhouse gas emissions saved because communally owned Maori land underperforms compared to other farmland.
As the table below shows, only about a third of the communally owned Maori land that would be suitable for dairy farming is in use for that purpose. Likewise, more than a third of such land appropriate for beef and sheep farming is being put to that use.
Much of the Maori land in forestry and scrub would be difficult to convert to other uses for a variety of reasons, the latest being that cutting down existing, carbon-storing trees creates a bill under the emissions trading scheme.
Calculated at $25 per tonne of carbon dioxide, the saving to the nation of under-using Maori land is $27m. As the carbon price rises, so will the value of that involuntary contribution.
However, it cannot be fair or reasonable that one of the ways New Zealand reaches its carbon reduction goals is to keep Maori land from being as productive as it might be. Nor is that $27m a reasonable trade-off for the estimated value to the New Zealand economy as a whole if that land were better used.
Figures provided this week by the Department of Internal Affairs suggest "the value of fully utilising and developing Māori land could result in benefits of up to $1.4-to-$2 billion over 40 years."
The reasons for this under-performance are historical. Lands sales to and confiscations by colonial settlers concentrated on the best land. Remaining Maori land has too often ended up in small, uneconomic blocks, sometimes landlocked and difficult even to access.
On top of that, communal ownership creates challenges because it is not always clear how decisions about the land can be made, who should make them, or even who all the inter-generationally scattered communal owners are.
Banks run a mile from that sort of imprecision. Nor are they keen on the fact that for Maori owners, keeping the land is more than just an economic choice, it's a stake in identity. As a result, sale is rarely an option, which removes one of the primary backstops in the event of business failure: a liquidation of the assets.
As a result, the 6 per cent or so of New Zealand that is classified as Maori land languishes compared to the rest of the country.
None of this information is new. The data for the table above was produced in 2011 when the previous government was trying and failing to reform Te Ture Whenua Maori Act 1993, one of many attempts to bed down Maori land law that has never been truly settled.
The reform push earlier this decade was Maori Party co-leader Te Uruora Flavell's signature policy, but in the end, it cost him his seat and the party's parliamentary presence.
Where Flavell saw reforms that would improve the tenure, governance and economic development of Maori land, many other Maori saw his reforms – somehow, and wrongly - as just another land grab. Labour's Maori MPs were happy to play into that story as they sought to bundle the Maori Party out of Parliament forever.
Come the 2017 election, and with that latter goal achieved, the newly appointed Maori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta embarked on, you guessed it, another round of attempted reform of Te Ture Whenua Maori Act 1993.
Twenty-seven years on, we are starting to see that occur, in a bunch of announcements early in the Waitangi week. They have reverberated in the Far North and Tairawhiti, where much Maori land is located, but attracted limited mainstream attention.
Perhaps most practical and welcome is a long overdue change to the way rates are levied on undeveloped Maori land.
Firstly, Mahuta's announcements give local councils the ability to write off unpaid rates that are in arrears if they choose to. The implication is that they will.
"In the Far North, accumulated rates arrears at the end of the 2019 financial year were $38.12m, most of which would be attributable to Māori land," a DIA spokesperson said this week.
Accumulated rates arrears in Opotiki, another area with high proportions of communal Maori land, were $4.2m, for a council with annual rates income of just $10.6m.
Tellingly, the majority of those unpaid arrears are penalties for late payment rather than the rates themselves. The vicious circle here is obvious and the announcements this week seek to break it.
This change will, says Mahuta, "give current owners a 'clean slate' so they can start afresh."
"Owners will be able to bring proposals to their local council without the fear of having to pay rates arrears before starting any kind of development."
Looking to the future, most unused Māori land will be made non-rateable, including Māori land set aside for conservation purposes, ending a piecemeal approach around the country. A new online resource, www.tupu.nz, has been launched, covering the 1.4 million hectares of freehold Māori land blocks, "providing land profiles, resources, case studies and on-line tools to support landowners with their plans for their whenua."
In other words, rather than go for a blockbuster reform of Maori land reform that may simply unsettle communal landowners, the current reforms seek a more practical, ground-up approach.
If the result is that under-used Maori land has a better chance of reaching its potential and contributing both to the economic empowerment of its owners and the wealth of the nation, long let's hope it succeeds.