November 2012 Māori Law Review
This comment is an invited response to the article by Biddy Livesey, Housing development on Māori land – Two case studies in developing and retaining Māori land.
Comment by Victoria Kingi - Project Manager for the Mangatawa Papakainga
Housing on Māori land is becoming an increasingly topical issue. We have seen the recent publication of the Productivity Commission and a report from the Office of the Auditor-General both highlight the difficulties associated with developing Māori land for housing. In the context of housing becoming increasingly unaffordable (both home ownership and rental); a young Māori population expected to triple by 2051 and Māori household incomes expected to decline to under $40,000 per annum, it is little wonder that Māori are now turning to their Māori land to find housing solutions.
Local and regional councils are also wading into the fray or poking around the edges to varying degrees. In the Western Bay of Plenty sub-region a collective approach working with Māori land trusts and Incorporations has led to the development of papakainga rules designed to make it easier to develop Māori land for housing, the creation of a Toolkit (a step by step guide to develop papakainga structure plans) and monthly papakainga workshops to help build Trustee capability utilising Council staff technical assistance and including other agencies such as the Māori Land Court and Te Puni Kōkiri.
Māori are becoming more vocal, mobilised and engaged particularly with central government and collectively at national and regional levels. The second two-day National Māori Housing Conference was held in Northland earlier this year. We are seeing the emergence of regional collectives of Māori Land Trusts like the Western Bay of Plenty Māori Housing Forum established in 2009. The Forum works closely with both local councils and relevant agencies to develop collective strategies to look for opportunities to develop Māori land at a greater scale than previously.
Central government, through the Social Housing Unit, has recently released a new allocation plan to assist with capital funding for social housing on both General and Māori land. New criteria for the Kainga Whenua lending product has also been released by Housing New Zealand. It is hoped that the new criteria will address the dismal failings of the previous lending product that has seen only 5 loans approved in the last 3 years. The Te Ture Whenua Māori Act is currently under review and it is hoped that the review panel will make recommendations to assist Māori to better utilise their land for housing and commercial pursuits. Certainly there appears to be rising consciousness about housing affordability in general and housing for Māori as a subset of that.
As Project Manager for the Mangatawa Papakainga, I was tasked to develop the business case, the business plan, obtain the funding and co-ordinate project implementation. In March of this year ten kaumatua moved into their new homes and we are currently developing our business case for the next twenty homes for low-income families. It is interesting to see our project unwrapped from an academic perspective in Biddy Livesey’s article and I appreciate the opportunity to provide feedback from a practical perspective.
One of the most difficult barriers to traverse when developing Māori land is working with the communal nature of its tenure and multiple ownership. This is so even where the land is administered by an Ahu Whenua Trust or Incorporation because of the thresholds for shareholder or beneficiary consents required by Te Ture Whenua Māori Act to partition land; provide for easements for development; create long term leases to use as security; mortgage land for capital development and so forth. It also creates logistical difficulties when dealing with hundreds of shareholders.
Mangatawa has over 700 shareholders. Approximately 30 percent of that shareholding remains unsucceeded to (the oldest dating back to 1909). The balance is held by shareholders "for whom addresses are unknown." Many of the shareholdings are now so small, due to automatic fragmentation under law, as to render them uneconomic and act as a disincentive to shareholders to contact our main office with contact details. Despite a concerted effort in 2011 to update our shareholder register, 30 percent remains unaccounted for.
In my view, multiple ownership is not reflective of traditional concepts of communal land tenure and is more akin to individualisation of property rights, reduced to shareholdings administered by quasi company-trusts like Māori Land Incorporations or land trusts. Certainly this is the view of Tauranga Māori as stated in their Treaty of Waitangi claims before the Waitangi Tribunal in hearings held in 1999 and 2005. This is not to diminish the importance of Incorporations as administrative entities. Indeed by the 1950s and 1960s individualisation had worked so well that we needed the Incorporations to pull multiple ownership back together so Māori could utilise their remaining lands. The point is that the introduction of individualised multiple ownership helped effect the alienation of over 95% of the Māori land base and helped to cripple development and utilisation because of associated logistical complexity to obtain shareholder consent from hundreds of owners for development, especially where legislative thresholds are required.
Despite these difficulties it is still very important for Administrators/Trustees to regularly engage in processes with shareholders to assess the level of support for developments, to understand needs, to prioritise and allow input and direction from shareholders. Strategic planning with shareholders assists on many levels and gives shareholders a sense of buy-in and a map for the future in terms of what they can expect to see developed on their land, it reduces risk of opposition and is more akin with traditional concepts of consensus decision making and whanaungatanga. Even though Mangatawa did not require shareholder consents to develop the Papakainga we still embarked on strategic planning with our shareholders for all of our lands to determine preferred commercial and non commercial or social uses. Housing was identified as a priority.
Papakainga housing clearly establishes exclusive benefits to those living in the homes now. However it is not benefit to the total exclusion of the rest of Mangatawa shareholders. Mangatawa takes an intergenerational and holistic approach when determining "benefit". Papakainga housing provides benefit to the quadruple bottom lines of the Incorporation.
Papakainga is a cultural concept, living in communities and providing community support to the residents and the local marae.
There are environmental benefits through use of better products that are made more affordable by undertaking a project at scale.
There is immediate financial benefit to the residents’ weekly income as they pay reduced rents and have more disposable income and become less financially dependent on their children, alleviating stress and worry.
All of our housing is social or rental housing owned by Mangatawa and therefore is an asset to all of the shareholders and the equity of the Incorporation. As kaumātua move out or move on the housing becomes available for the next senior generation.
We are better able to co-ordinate services through health providers and Whānau Ora initiatives so central government programmes are better utilised.
The improvement in housing results in an improvement in health which is a benefit to the country at large.
Overall the most obvious benefit to all shareholders is the sense of pride they feel when they look at what we have achieved, despite all the difficulties.
Finally, the matter of the financial viability of these projects must be commented on. The papakainga housing kaupapa can only progress where capital funding is available and the projects are structured to be financially sustainable in order to reduce risk to the land trust to repay lending while also enabling affordable tenancies or home ownership. Alternatively capital grants are utilised (with no lending required to be repaid). The current schemes, promoted by government through Kainga Whenua lending, and capital grants through the Social Housing Unit go some way to assisting with financial viability of housing on a small scale. Other options such as access to accommodation subsidies (accessed by Housing New Zealand for its tenants) and developing tax incentives for private investors to invest in affordable housing should be explored in more depth to achieve the scale of housing required to house our future generations.
Victoria Kingi (LLB Hons), is the director of her own consultancy company PSL (Papakainga Solutions Limited). PSL specialises in advising on and implementing property development of Māori land and assets owned by Māori, in particular housing and commercial developments.
Victoria was a trustee of Community Housing Aotearoa and a member of the Social Housing Unit Reference Group in 2011, advising the Department of Building and Housing to develop processes and criteria for funding and lending for housing on Māori land. She is involved in developing and implementing regional housing strategies in the Western Bay of Plenty sub-region in co-ordination with Māori land trusts, local and central government.
A trustee of Mangatawa Papamoa Blocks Inc, Victoria negotiated the funding, finance and delivery of the Mangatawa Papakainga to build ten units for kaumatua and has assisted four other local land trusts in the planning and funding of their papakainga projects due for construction in 2013.
 New Zealand Productivity Commission 2012, Housing Affordability Inquiry. New Zealand Government, Wellington, New Zealand. Available: http://www.productivity.govt.nz/inquiry-content/1509?stage=4
 Office of the Auditor-General 2011, Government planning and support for housing on Maori land, New Zealand Government, Wellington, New Zealand. Available: http://www.oag.govt.nz/2011/housing-on-maori-land/
 Social Housing Unit 2012, Social Housing Fund Allocation Plan New Zealand Government, Wellington, New Zealand. Available: http://www.socialhousingunit.govt.nz/news/social-housing-fund-allocation-plan-2012-2015/
 Housing New Zealand Corporation 2012, Fact Sheet Kāinga Whenua Loans Available: http://www.hnzc.co.nz/rent-buy-or-own/home-loans/kainga-whenua/kainga-whenua/Fact-Sheet-Kainga-Whenua-changes.pdf