New leases see increased payouts and whānau employment

Published 14th Sep 2011
A long-term lease on whānau land left a generation of owners disconnected with their whenua.

But now whānau are returning to Pakarau Pa near Matamata and the land is an important part of their community life.
 
Trustee George Te Whero Tuhakaraina says up to 100 members of the whānau a year are now employed on the land.
 
“It’s fantastic for everyone to be working on the land. We take the kids out there during their school holidays and it’s a great way to earn money for books, school fees and uniforms.”
 
Pakarau Pa’s current leases are short term cropping agreements and the new lessees grow potatoes, sweetcorn and onions, which has resulted in employment for whānau come harvesting time, but that wasn’t always the case.

Historic leases

In the 1950s the Māori Land Court set up an agreement to lease Pakarau Pa to a local farming business for two consecutive 21-year periods.

Māori Trustee Waikato-Maniapoto Land Administration Officer Maureen Tinkler says 50 years ago long-term leases were usual and were considered reasonable as they gave the owners security of rent.

Unfortunately, it also meant low returns for the owners of Pakarau Pa and a sense of loss for a generation of whānau who felt they had no connection with their whenua.

Mr Tuhakaraina says that with the new leases, the payouts to whānau have also increased because the rents are now in line with present day rates, rather than those set in the 1950s.

Māori Trustee had been the administrators of Pakarau Pa since the 1950s as appointed by the Māori Land Court, but up until 1999 their decisions had been constrained by the 21-year lease agreements.

In 1999 the leases were finally up for renewal and Māori Trustee called an owners’ meeting to discuss the future utilisation of Pakarau Pa.

New approach

“The owner’s meeting was a chance to finally bring the owners together and to hear their concerns and their hopes for Pakarau Pa. They were fed up and wanted change. They elected four new trustees to make decisions on behalf of the whānau and negotiate new lease agreements,” says Maureen.

“It was also an opportunity for the whānau to consider how they would look after the financial and administration side of the land – services like administering and distributing payouts and completing the GST returns,” she says.

As part of this review process once the leases were up, the trustees considered alternative offers for administration services along with Māori Trustee.

But, trustee Marsden Kaukau says, it was clear Māori Trustee were right for the job.

“Māori Trustee knows everyone’s land around here and they set up the new leases to ensure we got a good deal. They made our jobs easier and having them take care of the administration side saves us time. It’s taken away a lot of worry for us. I don’t think just anybody could jump in there and know what they were doing. We trust Maureen and Māori Trustee, but we always have the last say. If I ever want to know anything I just ask and they will tell me,” he says.

“Māori Trustee are independent and impartial and also facilitate the owners’ meetings and the decisions made at the meetings.”

He says 20 years ago the whānau were getting nothing and there were no improvements made to the land, but since then it’s improved out of sight. But most importantly the whānau is connected to their whenua once again.

“We are welcome there any time and the young ones are growing up with a sense of belonging to Pakarau Pa. We are also investigating our urupā, wāhi tapu and we’re eeling in the Waihou River once more. It’s amazing to see,” Mr Tuakaraina says.

Pakarau Pa up close

  • 100 acres near Matamata in the Waikato
  • Increased returns from focused leases
  • New land uses offer employment to whānau