In a modern context it has two main characteristics which make it unique:
- Economic value – an interest in Māori land is, like general land, an economic asset that may be used, traded, sold or transferred. Unlike general land, law sets strong rules around ensuring that land stays in the hands of its owners, whānau and the hapū associated with it
- Cultural value – the law recognises that Māori land is a taonga tuku iho of special significance to Māori passed from generation to generation.
An interest in Māori land is also considered a tangible whakapapa (genealogical) link for owners to their past and present whānau, hapū and iwi, whether they live on or close to the land or not.
Māori freehold land is held by individuals who have shares together as tenants in common. This can make developing Māori freehold land particularly challenging.
Why review the current policy?
Under New Zealand law, we now have to show how our policies on the remission and postponement of rates on Māori freehold land support the principles in the Preamble to Te Ture Whenua Māori Act 1993. These principles remind us of the special significance of land to Māori and to support its development for the benefit of owners and their whānau.
In line with this, we are going to amend our current remission and postponement of rates on Māori freehold land policy so we can consider the benefits of developing Māori freehold land and to introduce mechanisms that acknowledge the unlikelihood of Māori land being sold. We also want to recognise that western notions of land value may not be the same for Māori.
While Tauranga has provided for rates remission on Māori freehold land for some time, the emphasis was on owners having to comply with criteria rather than assessing what outcomes may be achieved through developing the land.
We are proposing to offer 100% remission of rates on land subject to development. We believe that offering this level of remission without a time limit better recognises the amount of time it may take to complete a development. Council cannot charge rates on Māori freehold land that is unused.