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Minister Flavell to push law review to drive Maori agribusiness

Friday 19th December 2014

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Maori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell expects to table legislation in the second half of next year to make it easier for Maori land owners to make decisions on land use in an effort to drive agricultural business development.

The government launched a review of the Te Ture Whenua Maori Act, which covers about 5 percent of New Zealand's land, in a bid to reform the governance and management of Maori land, and Flavell anticipates tabling legislation in Parliament next year, he said at the release of the government's reports on developing Maori agribusiness. The legislative review seeks to deal with the fragmentation among Maori land owners with a view to improving the performance of the land and tap into what's seen as its major economic potential.

"I've given a commitment to the Prime Minister and it will be my absolute priority to have the Te Ture Whenua Act done and into the House by August or September of next year, such that we can really start opening up the door on the Maori potential," Flavell said. The legislative review will go a long way to dealing with that fragmentation holding back Maori agribusiness. With the amount of work and consultation already undertaken, Flavell doesn't anticipate the legislation will get too bogged down in Parliament once it's tabled, he said.

Dealing with the fragmentation of organisations dealing with iwi, hapu, marae, Maori land, education and health was cited as one of the opportunities to boost efficiency among Maori by EY subsidiary Tahi, a Maori professional advisory firm focusing solely on the issues facing Maori and iwi organisations, which sees gains through shared services and management models.

The agribusiness reports were released by Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy and Flavell in Wellington today, and form part of the government's attempt to double primary products exports by 2025.

A PwC report "updates and refines estimates around the potential value of Maori freehold land and the estimation between 2013 and 2025 is that if we can lift the performance of Maori freehold land, it's worth $3.5 billion, and $1.2 billion of that is made up of forestry potential," Guy said. "When you think about the timeframe out to 2025, that folds nicely into the government's desire to double the value of our primary sector."

The key finding of the PwC report was that the largest immediate opportunity for Maori agribusiness was in dairy farming, but that forestry offered long term value in some regions, though those gains would need some $825 million in additional investment.

Flavell said Maori agribusiness is attracting interest from external investors, though "we need to get more connectivity", and he was looking at how Te Puni Kokiri can help facilitate that investment.

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