I hope you have all enjoyed summer and time with the whānau. It's been a busy start to the year for Labour, and we're getting right back into things at the Beehive this week.
Our Government team spent a great week at Waitangi, with the Prime Minister visiting small communities in Northland and responding to aspirations in the regions. They announced a new initiative for Māori landowners across the country.
At Otamatea marae in the Kaipara the $100 million Provincial Growth Fund package for Māori landowners was launched by the Prime Minister. When people ask why we are doing this I remind them that official studies say 80 per cent of Maori land is underutilised.
One of the biggest reasons for this is that access to capital remains a problem for our landowners. Unlocking this land would help not only whenua Māori but make our regions and Aotearoa itself more prosperous.
The importance of this was underlined by a report this week that said the combined wealth of the nation's 75 iwi groups rose by 1.2 billion to almost $9 billion. The Raukawa iwi based in the South Waikato delivered the best return on assets in 2018, with close to 10 per cent.
So where does Māori land fit into this. Well in the decades ahead this could mean economic benefits for the country of up to $650 million from Te Tai Tokerau, Waikato, Waiariki and Te Tairawhiti.
To help unlock this land the PGF is in a unique position to help where the banks won't.
Sitting alongside this initiative my ministry supports Māori landowners through the whenua Māori initiative designed to help Māori landowners determine the best use of their lands and help improve their governance options.
The changes I will sponsor later this year to the Te Ture Whenua Māori Bill are much more targeted than the previous government's heavy handed reforms that were not supported by Māori landowners.
I visited Otangarei where the Government is committing a million dollars to a papakāinga development. This is a community project with sizable contributions from the local Māori trust and the Pakakāinga trust itself.
Then we went on to Tākou Bay near Kaeo for another major Māori housing project. Here we committed the first $650,000 of funds to a major project to repair homes and provide affordable homes.
A total of $2.3 million has been committed to te Runanaga o Whaingaroa to support their housing aspirations.
Together we can accelerate whānau, hapū and iwi development by ensuring people have access to a warm, dry home in a safe and healthy community. We want to ensure more of our people are trained and employed in the construction and trades industry.
This Waitangi we proved we are a Government that is committed to change and making genuine reform. We've achieved a lot and have a long way to go, but we're on the right track.
The Prime minister has tasked our team to focus on delivery in 2019. I'm sure that our focus on wellbeing and sharing prosperity to more New Zealanders will make a huge difference.
¦Nanaia Mahuta is MP for the Hauraki-Waikato electorate and the Minister for Local Government and Maori Development, and associate Minister for the Environment.