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The Real Estate Authority (REA) has released updated consumer guides on the property buying and selling process in seven languages - including te reo Māori.
REA regulates licensed real estate professionals and is also a consumer protection agency.
Their Residential Property Agency Agreement Guide and the Residential Property Sale and Purchase Agreement Guide offer independent information about what New Zealanders should expect during a real estate transaction, as well as some of the key risks and issues to watch for.
REA chief executive/registrar Belinda Moffat says English is not the first language for many of their consumers, in which Māori make up roughly 23 per cent.
"Our aim is to increase the accessibility of our consumer protection information, to help more members of New Zealand's diverse communities participate confidently in real estate transactions," Moffat says.
The guides are also available in English, Tongan, Samoan, Hindi, Korean, and simplified Chinese.
According to a recent consumer survey, it showed 23 per cent of respondents who had bought their first home in the past 12 months were Māori.
The REA has been working hard to demonstrate that they value te reo Māori as a taonga, according to Moffat who says that the language is used in her team's own internal work and increasingly throughout their external communications with New Zealanders and their sector as well.
"The use of language in the Māori lexicon is a really important taonga and it has to be developed carefully. So we took extra care during the translation process and had for example the word "papanoho", which means property, double checked as it was new terminology to us."
While purchasing or selling a home is often the biggest financial transaction a person will do, Moffat is aware that for many Māori, this investment is about more than just financial gain and material stability.
Translating these legal documents was the REA's first step to addressing the communication barrier which they found was limiting Māori engagement and overall participation.
A research project that will be finished in 2023 will examine further participation barriers for a variety of communities, including disabled, aged, and other ethnic communities.
The REA says hopefully these new fully translated guides will help to remove barriers to participation in real estate transactions by making sure that information is available to wider ethnic groups so that they can engage with confidence."
A 2010 Housing New Zealand Corporation report, Māori Housing Trends, argued that there was a clear cultural basis for the needs of Māori around housing. It noted that Māori views of land and housing were strongly associated with whakapapa and guardianship which recognise social, spiritual, emotional, and intergenerational values.
"As the REA we also oversee an education programme so that licensees are continuously upskilling their knowledge about the process of selling real estate or whenua," she says.
The guides were originally translated from English to Māori by the DIA (Department of Internal Affairs) Communications Service, it was then reviewed by Te Taurawhiri's CE, Ngahiwi Apanui.
Moffat credits her background in news broadcasting for its overall purpose of sharing stories and making them accessible for all of Aotearoa in which she instills in her work at the REA.
"We are here for all of New Zealand. Not everyone has the ability to buy a house, but we're really committed to making sure that anyone who wants to try - can have the benefit and protection of our services which means that we're not just communicating in one language."
"It also means that we're not just looking at something from one perspective, but that we're looking at our work from a range of perspectives."
We have two purposes, one is to protect and promote the interest of consumers and the other is to ensure our licensees are complying to the code of conduct to reduce factors which may harm consumers.
Harm in this case can come in many different forms, such as money loss, the perception that the features of a property were misrepresented, emotional loss, or unfair treatment when someone feels under pressure.
Overall, Moffat says that she wants a profession that New Zealanders can trust and have confidence in. To help them get there, the REA is working on its own Māori engagement and development framework based on the principles of protection, participation and partnership.
To Moffat, it's about having kōrero to understand what the needs and interests of Māori are so she and her team are really thinking about the issues and not "just making assumptions" while also demonstrating their commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi.
Thinking about the house-buying process from a disabled perspective is another angle which is important to the team at REA.
"I'd then love to see us have a braille and audio version of these guides too."
REA's "Buying Journey Guide" which maps out an end-to-end overview of the home buying process has also been updated and translated.