Auditor-General's overview

Government planning and support for housing on Māori land. Ngā whakatakotoranga kaupapa me te tautoko a te Kāwanatanga ki te hanga whare i runga i te whenua Māori.

Multiply-owned Māori land accounts for between 4% and 6% of land in New Zealand. Not all of this land is in remote rural locations – it includes quite a lot of very desirable land close to major centres.

In selecting this topic for a performance audit, I was aware of the desire for better housing, the consequences of poor housing, and the cultural significance of land. Throughout the audit, people we met reinforced to us the primary importance of land to cultural and social identity and its status as a taonga tuku iho to be safeguarded for future generations. In their words:

... it feels awesome to be on my land. The land of my ancestors. I know I can contribute something back to the marae and my children have a home to come back to …

Prosperity for Māori is defined as a place of warmth and belonging, where a man can raise his children as free and proud indigenous people in a healthy environment. For the land and culture is not ours to sell, pollute, or desecrate. It is our children's inheritance and our future generations' …

We want a place to live, we have land, and we want to be connected to the marae.

I thank all the people who so generously welcomed my auditors and shared with them their experiences in dealing with the various government agencies and the barriers they saw in the system.

As could be expected, owners of Māori land want to use their land to build high-quality, healthy houses and strengthen their communities. Yet, despite such aspirations, most Māori who wish to build on Māori land do not fulfil that goal. This is disappointing for Māori and for government agencies.

My staff examined the effectiveness of government support for Māori seeking to build housing on their land. We examined the work of a broad range of public entities, including how they work to provide Māori with effective information and advice and how easy it is for Māori to secure the approvals and funding they need.

This report lists the various initiatives to support Māori housing during the last 80 years. We audited the three current initiatives: Kāinga Whenua loans, the Māori Demonstration Partnership fund, and Special Housing Action Zones.

We found that, despite good intentions, the process to build a house on Māori land is fraught. Lessons have not been learned from past attempts, so the initiatives are not effectively targeted and the processes are not streamlined. Overall:

  • Although some individuals in agencies provide high-quality advice to guide people through the maze of agencies and processes, agency staff generally lack the knowledge and depth of understanding to do this well.
  • There are complicated and disconnected processes for getting the necessary approvals and funding for putting housing on Māori land. Central and local government do not always work together in a co-ordinated way.
  • Getting consent to build on Māori land can require approval from multiple shareholders who can be hard to locate.
  • Without adequate financial support, the upfront costs required by local authority consent processes can pose a significant challenge for Māori landowners.
  • Banks are reluctant to accept Māori land as security for a loan, state lending programmes could be better targeted to the financial circumstances of Māori households and organisations, and houses built on Māori land tend to lose rather than gain value because there is a limited market for them.

The current financial products available for building houses on Māori land are extensions of earlier programmes that were designed for different population groups and needs. Kāinga Whenua loans are an extension of the Welcome Home Loan scheme, and Māori Demonstration Partnerships are an extension of the Housing Innovation Fund.

The Kāinga Whenua loan programme is an encouraging development, despite having only one loan made to date. However, as the programme is currently designed, most people who can afford the loan cannot get it and most people who can get the loan cannot afford it. Likewise, the Māori Demonstration Partnership fund could help more Māori into affordable housing on their land but needs some improvements to meet its full potential.

Programmes and initiatives for housing on Māori land are under review, and are being transferred to the Department of Building and Housing. I encourage the Department of Building and Housing and others involved in supporting housing on Māori land to carefully consider the recommendations in this report.

I thank the various agencies in the state sector and local government for their time. I would particularly like to acknowledge the wisdom and depth of experience provided by my advisory group: Tiwana Tibble, Rahera Ohia, Paul White, and David Perenara-O'Connell.

My staff will now return to the places where we audited to share our findings, and I look forward to seeing the good practice and improvements recommended to owners of Māori land and the agencies being used to build more houses.

Signature - LP

Lyn Provost
Controller and Auditor-General

15 August 2011

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