Part 2: Māori housing needs and history, and current government programmes

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.

Wāhanga Tuarua – Ko ngā hiahia, ko ngā tāhuhu kōrero me ngā kaupapa kāwanatanga onāianei m te whare Māori

In this Part, we discuss:

Māori housing needs

Māori are disproportionately represented on state housing waiting lists. They are more likely to live in housing of poor condition compared with the rest of the population. Māori are also less likely than non-Māori to own their own house.

The Department of Building and Housing (DBH) has identified that there is already a significant undersupply of affordable housing. Because Māori have disproportionately low incomes, they are likely to struggle more to find affordable housing. This is particularly true in areas where the Māori population is predicted to grow at a rate higher than that of the general population (such as Whangarei and the Bay of Plenty).

The significance of Māori land

Throughout the regions where we audited, there was significant demand from Māori individuals and organisations to use their land for housing, given appropriate support and regulation. Māori land is considered to be taonga tuku iho, a treasure handed down through the generations. Māori land has significant cultural and social value, and the desire to live on the land is often described in terms of fostering well-being for the community and as a source of mana. Figure 2 provides a Māori perspective about Māori land, using quotes from interviews we conducted with Māori whānau and trusts.

Figure 2
Some of the values associated with living on Māori land

… we have a different understanding … we want a home not for investment, we want a home for our kids and grandparents to be warm … we're never going to sell the home.

I belong, I feel good, I see the urupā, 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.

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

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 the culture is not ours to sell, pollute, or desecrate. It is our children's inheritance and our future generations' …

Source: Our interviews with Māori groups involved in housing.

Types of Māori land

In this report, we use the term "Māori land" to refer to the following types of land that are owned by Māori:

  • Māori customary land – land that has always been owned by Māori and has never been assigned individual title. Māori customary land cannot be bought or sold.
  • Māori freehold land – defined by Te Ture Whenua Māori Act 1993 as "Land, the beneficial ownership of which has been determined by the Māori Land Court by freehold order". Māori freehold land has strict provisions governing decisions about being bought, sold, and used.
  • General land owned by Māori – other land owned by Māori may be multiply-owned but held in General Title. Typically, this is Māori freehold land that was converted to general land by the Māori Affairs Amendment Act 1967. Because it is general land, it is not affected by the special provisions that govern the sale or "alienation" of Māori land in Te Ture Whenua Māori Act 1993.
  • Māori Reserves – land that has been officially set apart for purposes that include village sites, marae, meeting places, recreation grounds, sports grounds, places of historical significance, or places of special significance according to tikanga Māori.

The intention of Te Ture Whenua Māori Act 1993 is "that powers, duties, and discretions conferred by this Act shall be exercised, as far as possible, in a manner that facilitates and promotes the retention, use, development, and control of Maori land as taonga tuku iho by Maori owners, their whanau, their hapu, and their descendants".

The restrictions on selling Māori freehold land are significant for this report. In most circumstances, Māori land cannot easily be sold on the open market. Instead, shares in the ownership of Māori land are passed down through generations. A descendant of a deceased Māori landowner must apply to the Māori Land Court to establish their right to shares in the land. This is known as applying for a succession order.

The potential for Māori land to provide for affordable housing

Outside the main cities, some areas that have large Māori populations also have large clusters of Māori land (such as Northland, Bay of Plenty, and Hawke's Bay). Māori in these areas are keen to use their land for housing. Between 4% and 6% of New Zealand is multiply-owned Māori land, and about 30% of Māori land is in or near to towns.

Māori land is an asset that can make building a house more affordable for those who hold shares in the land. Where Māori already own the land, the costs of developing housing are reduced. This reduction can range from 15% to 40%, depending on land values.

Potentially, Māori land could be used to provide houses in areas where population growth is expected to be high. For example, a high increase in the Māori population in the Bay of Plenty is expected by 2021 (see Part 3 for details). There are blocks of Māori land in this region that would be suitable for housing around some of the main centres, particularly Tauranga and Whakatane. In the Bay of Plenty, the Smart Growth strategy has objectives and targets to realise this potential, and Whakatane District Council has a district plan that emphasises the importance of Māori land.

The barriers to building housing on Māori land

We want a place to live, we have land, we want to be connected to the marae. We believed we could achieve these goals. Five years later the expectancy has watered down, you can see the disappointment. Whānau acknowledge the hard work to get houses which is acceptable, the issue has been the length of the process to get people into a house. Nowhere else in the world would people wait for five years, especially when we own the land!

Despite the potential, many of the plans and aspirations that whānau, Māori trusts, hap , and iwi have for building housing on their land are yet to be realised. This is frustrating to many families and trusts, as well as for many staff of the public entities that are involved.

There are many issues confronting a household, whānau, or trust seeking to build housing on Māori land. These are well known and have been documented by a range of studies, including our 2004 performance audit of the Māori Land Court and Māori Trustee3. Figure 3 sets out the main issues and the government responses that are intended to overcome them.

Figure 3 Barriers to building housing on Māori land

Issue Response
Difficulty in raising finance: Banks have been reluctant to lend money for mortgages on Māori land. Although they can take Māori land as security for a loan, if the bank needs to take the land because of default on the loan, it is difficult to sell the land to recover the money lent. Kiwibank has a loan called Kāinga Whenua, which is specifically designed for home loans on multiply-owned Māori land. HNZC underwrites the loans.

HNZC also provides finance for housing developments on multiply-owned Māori land through the Māori Demonstration Partnership fund (the MDP fund), a contestable fund to which iwi and hap organisations can apply.
Planning restrictions: A lot of Māori land is in rural areas or on the outskirts of towns. Traditionally, it has been used for agriculture or has not been used at all. Because of the conditions and use of Māori land, it is often zoned as rural. This restricts the number of houses that can be built and can affect designs and plans for housing developments. District planning has not traditionally looked at Māori land as providing a means for housing development, so resource consent applications can prove costly. Local authorities are revising their district plans. Some are using the revisions to change their approach to planning for and zoning Māori land.
Rates arrears: Over time, rates arrears have built up on Māori land. Although rates assessed on Māori land account for only about 0.3% of all rates, the arrears of rates on Māori land make up 29% of all arrears.

Owners of Māori land are sometimes reluctant to put housing on land because they fear they will become responsible for paying the arrears.
Local authorities have rates remission policies that can overcome this barrier.

Land around a new house can be "apportioned" so the household is responsible only for the rates due on the land around the house and not the whole of the land block.
Infrastructure: Because of its rural zoning and its location, Māori land is often poorly connected to main services such as water, stormwater, electricity, and waste-water. The costs required to install the necessary infrastructure can prove prohibitive and delay housing developments. Some of a Kāinga Whenua loan can be used to fund some infrastructure.

MDP fund applicants include infrastructure costs in their proposals.
Gaining consent to build where there are many owners: There can be many, sometimes hundreds, of shareholders in a block of multiply-owned Māori land. On average, there are 86 owners for each land title. Contacting these shareholders can be costly and time consuming. Sometimes, shareholders do not agree what should be done with the land, delaying or even stopping plans to build housing. Principal Liaison Officers in regional offices of the Māori Land Court provide advice and support to people seeking to contact their fellow shareholders in blocks of multiply-owned Māori land. Clients of the Court can also post notices on the Māori Land Court website.

The Māori Land Information System was introduced in 2000. This provides information on title holders of all Māori land blocks. In 2011, a Māori Land Geographic Information System was introduced that provides detailed information about all Māori land in written and picture form.

In 2004, we recommended that the Māori Land Court compile a database of addresses of shareholders of Māori land. A database has been made available. However, the Māori Land Court relies on shareholders to update the information. Some of the information is therefore incomplete or outdated.

As well as these barriers, legislation about Māori land has affected its development. We set out some of the main points in the Appendix.

The history of government interventions and their results

Over the years, government agencies have invested in many programmes to help owners of Māori land to overcome these barriers. Despite some successes, the barriers remain. Figure 4 sets out information about the main programmes for building houses on Māori land.

Figure 4
Past and present programmes for building housing on Māori land

Government programme (Entity) Duration Description Results and resourcing
Native Affairs homes 1929-1945 This housing was generally rural and developed in association with the development of whānau dairy units. Houses were built on multiply-owned land as part of what was labelled the Ngata land development schemes. Nominated occupiers took responsibility for loans alongside farm development. We estimate that there were at least 293 mortgages for Māori Affairs homes. The actual figure is likely to be much higher.
Māori Affairs homes

(Former Department of Māori Affairs)
1945-1980s This housing was largely in urban areas and towns to support the migration of Māori to the towns and cities for work after the Second World War. Houses were built on Māori land on the fringes of small towns, but owners were required to partition out their shares and obtain an individual title. The main emphasis was in the cities where families were assisted to buy houses in new subdivisions. From the 1970s, kaumātua flats on marae were built on Māori land.

The Department of Māori Affairs provided loans for building houses on Māori land. These houses typically used quality building materials and those that have been maintained are still in good condition today.

The programme was recalled by many interviewees as leading to better-quality housing outcomes than later programmes.

Concerns were raised with us that prudential lending criteria were much looser, resulting in more defaults than later programmes.
Papakāinga Lending Scheme

1985-2008 Loans to individuals to build houses on Māori land.

Applicants had to meet the loan conditions, which included a 15% deposit. Limited support or training was provided to applicants or loan recipients.

In its later years, this programme largely serviced the areas that were not targeted under the Low Deposit Rural Lending programme, which in part explains its low uptake in the years we have information for.
44 loans between 2000 and 2009.
Low Deposit Rural Lending

(HNZC and contracted (often Māori) providers)
1994-2008 Home loan for low-income households with 3% deposit.

Applicants completed a home ownership education course and had to prove that they could service a loan. Information and coaching/brokering support was provided for up to five years to help manage defaults in the most common default period.

The comprehensive support and guidance under this programme had a positive effect on the number of loan defaults and helped people into housing who otherwise would not have been able to own a house.

Recipients had to be within target areas (Northland, East Coast, Bay of Plenty).

Participants included clients such as seasonal workers, welfare beneficiaries, and single parents.

Many of the houses built through the 1990s used low-quality materials and have required high maintenance or replacement (generating costs for the Rural Housing Programme).
142 loans were provided between 2000 and 2009 for houses on multiply-owned Māori land.
Special Housing Action Zones

2000-present This was originally a much larger programme, a joint initiative between TPK and HNZC. TPK was responsible for the capacity support to Māori communities and organisations, and HNZC was responsible for the capital funding for a suite of housing initiatives developed by Māori communities and organisations able to enter into contractual arrangements.

Funding was used for a range of purposes, including paying for professional services such as planners and architects, and funding home maintenance programmes.

This programme demonstrates a better approach to partnerships than many other housing interventions.

The support provided is highly valued by its recipients. Several stated that they would not have been able to participate in housing without it.
Has been instrumental in progressing a number of housing developments. This includes two of the successful Māori Demonstration Partnership fund projects in 2010/11.

$456,000 in 2010/11.
Rural Housing Programme

(HNZC and contracted (often Māori) providers)
2001-2011 Loans and grants to upgrade, renovate, and replace housing.

The programme was designed to:
  • improve the quality of housing in rural areas within the Northland, Bay of Plenty, and East Coast regions;
  • increase the supply of affordable, quality houses; and
  • help communities to manage their own housing needs.
Much of the focus of the programme was on Māori communities and finding solutions to the problems of poor housing on multiply-owned Māori land.

A review commissioned by DBH concluded that, although living conditions have improved for some families, the programme did not provide good value for money because the improvements were not sustainable.

DBH is developing policy options for a replacement to this programme.
2900 houses repaired between 2001/02 and 2010/11.

$139.5 million between 2001 and 2010.
Community Owned Rural Rental Housing Loans

2002-2008 Loans for community-based organisations to build their rental housing stock.

Units were leased back to HNZC for the first 10 years of their existence.

This was the first HNZC programme that provided loans to Māori trusts and, as such, represented a step forward for encouraging trusts to provide housing on Māori land.

The skills and financial capacity of some Māori land trusts was limited, which held up some of the housing developments.
$6.6 million provided to Māori trusts in low-cost loans.

Results are unclear, but the programme spent less than the target amount for each year.
Māori Demonstration Partnership fund

2008-present Contestable fund that provides grants and low-cost loans to Māori organisations to help them develop housing on multiply-owned land.

Funding can be used for almost all the costs involved, including building houses and infrastructural services.

Capacity funding was initially available to help trusts pay for professional services needed as part of planning the development. This capacity funding is no longer available.

Māori organisations must contribute 50% of the project's equity in the form of land, funds, or labour.

The fund has not always been managed in keeping with the principles of partnership.

There is no overall strategy for capturing, disseminating, or using learning from partnerships.

The fund is a part of the Housing Innovation Fund, currently managed by HNZC.
Four partnerships.

15 houses, 28 kaumātua houses, and a large communal building (at the time of our audit, these were yet to be built).

$5 million each year.
Kāinga Whenua

(HNZC and

Home loans are provided by Kiwibank to build on multiply-owned Māori land. HNZC provides the security for loans.

Applicants must be first-home buyers, and the maximum income of a two-income household is $85,000.

Some of a Kāinga Whenua loan can be used to fund some infrastructure.

Loans provide, for the first time, a mechanism for owners of Māori land to access finance from a mainstream bank – one of the most commonly recognised barriers to building on Māori land.

Kāinga Whenua is not well matched to the incomes of Māori households. Loan uptake in the first year has been well below expectations.

One loan between February 2010 and 3 December 2010.

HNZC's implementation costs are about $100,000 plus staff time.

Kiwibank's costs are not reported here because they are commercially sensitive.

The objectives of government agencies

HNZC, TPK, the Māori Land Court, and local authorities all have objectives and responsibilities to provide support and guidance and to regulate the development of housing on multiply-owned Māori land.

HNZC and TPK refer to housing on Māori land in their Statements of Intent (SOI).

HNZC's Statement of Intent 2010–13 includes the impact of "Increased use of multiple-owned Māori land for housing purposes". HNZC measures its performance by monitoring the use of MDP fund and Kāinga Whenua loans for housing on multiply-owned Māori land. HNZC underwrites Kāinga Whenua loans. They are provided by Kiwibank and require either no or a low deposit. The Māori Demonstration Partnership fund (the MDP fund) is a contestable fund of $5 million a year, which provides grants and loans to Māori housing providers. The MDP fund is a part of the Housing Innovation Fund (HIF), which was managed by HNZC at the time of our audit.

In its Statement of Intent 2010-13, TPK includes "increased levels of home ownership amongst Māori" as one indicator for its outcome "Whānau Ora: Whānau and Māori achieve enhanced levels of economic and social prosperity". In 2010/11, TPK received an appropriation of $456,000 to provide capacity-building support to Māori groups who want to develop housing in Special Housing Action Zones (SHAZ).

Another Crown programme, the Rural Housing Programme, also administered by HNZC, provided funds to organisations to upgrade, renovate, and replace housing in Northland, Bay of Plenty, and the East Coast. The Rural Housing Programme was wound down in 2010/11. DBH is preparing policy options for replacing this programme.

HNZC has had responsibility for administering the MDP fund and Kāinga Whenua. These are Crown initiatives that formed only a small part of HNZC's business operations. HNZC's core role has been, and will continue to be, to manage state housing for those in greatest need.

Cabinet has reviewed the role HNZC will have in Crown housing programmes. The Housing Shareholders Advisory Group, which was set up at the request of the Minister of Housing, recommended that HNZC focus on delivering state housing to those in greatest need. Crown programmes that intend to support and promote housing development on multiply-owned Māori land are being transferred to the Department of Building and Housing.

3: The report, Māori Land Administration: Client Service Performance of the Māori Land Court Unit and the Māori Trustee, is available on our website –

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