August 18, 2014
Panel fails to make case for land reform
A Maori Land Court judge has mounted an extraordinary attack on proposed reform of the court’s main legislation, Te Ture Whenua Maori Act.
Writing in a court newsletter, Judge David Ambler said while constitutional convention dictates the judiciary can’t comment on government policy concerning the law, the report is at this stage the work of an independent review panel.
The panel, led by Gisborne lawyer Matanuku Mahuika, recommended reducing the role of the court and allowing what it called engaged owners more power to make decisions about Maori land.
Judge Ambler says rather than evaluating what was wrong with the current law and how it should be fixed, the panel gave its opinion on what the law should look like.
He says it failed to give any examples of deficiencies in the act, and its proposals could actually make things worse.
Judge Ambler says Te Ture Whenua Maori Act has remained largely unchanged since it was enacted 21 years ago, during which time there have been major successes with utilisation and development of Maori land.
That suggests the fundamentals of the act are sound.
Te Puni Kokiri and the Iwi Leaders Group have just completed a round of information hui on progress towards drafting a new act.
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