Part 4: Getting information and advice from government agencies

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 Tuawhā – Te kohi kōrero me ngā tohutohu mai i ngā tari kāwanatanga

In this Part, we describe the experience that owners of Māori land have when seeking information and advice about building on Māori land from government agencies. Specifically, we discuss:

Building housing on Māori land is a challenging task. Owners of Māori land often lack experience in building housing and will be unfamiliar with processes for building on Māori land. Therefore, it is important that they can easily access good information and advice.

No single agency provides owners of Māori land with information and advice. Instead, they have to interact with a wide range of organisations. Often, landowners will also have to contact the other shareholders in the land to get their consent to build.

How Māori currently experience information and advice services

Owners of Māori land who need information and advice about building houses on their land have to speak with at least three but usually more agencies to get the information they need. This includes their local authority for planning and compliance information, HNZC for information on funding initiatives, Kiwibank if they are seeking information on a Kāinga Whenua loan, and the Māori Land Court for information on Māori land administration and law. In addition, Māori landowners will often seek advice from TPK, their local Māori trust board, or iwi governance organisation.

The different agencies do not adequately understand each other's processes, policies, and requirements. This means that owners of Māori land cannot get all the information they need without visiting all the different agencies. Overall, we found that:

  • government agencies are not working together in a co-ordinated way, which makes it hard for Māori to get effective advice and guidance to help them build housing on their land;
  • although some individuals provide high-quality advice to Māori, agency staff do not generally have the depth of understanding necessary to guide them through the entire process well; and
  • in some places, agencies have recognised the benefits of working together to support owners of Māori land, which helps to streamline processes and makes support more effective.

In Figure 24, we set out the different government agencies that owners of Māori land normally have to interact with when they begin planning a housing development. The diagram shows how owners of Māori land will normally have to contact several agencies to get the information they need to build on their land. We then describe the experience that Māori landowners have of the different agencies they approach for support with their housing projects.

Figure 24
Government agencies that owners of Māori land interact with when they decide to build on Māori land

Figure 24: Government agencies that owners of Māori land interact with when they decide to build on Māori land.

The processes that owners of Māori land experience when they seek information, advice, and guidance

At Te Puni Kōkiri

If we didn't receive funding from TPK, we wouldn't have gotten anywhere.

Many Māori approach TPK for advice on housing issues because they see this public entity as their natural "first port of call". TPK staff will provide general advice, but they are not trained in housing issues. TPK staff refer enquirers to the SHAZ Manager (who is based in Wellington), to the enquirer's local HNZC office, or to Kiwibank.

Many of the Māori landowners we interviewed regarded the work of the SHAZ fund highly. Many of the whānau and trusts who are carrying out housing projects have received help from it. In many cases, they would have struggled without the help they received from TPK and the SHAZ fund. However, nationally, only one TPK staff member is assigned to manage the SHAZ fund of $485,000, so the level of support that can be given to owners of Māori land is limited.

At the Māori Land Court

We went to the Māori Land Court […] to apply for an Occupation Order. We went at least five times, and were required to provide different or more information at each visit.

When I received direct help from a staff member like […] it felt good, I felt like I had accomplished something.

It's taken us a year to get a hearing. Continually going in every month … 12 December 2009 we held a special meeting where we wanted to get our designated area held. We didn't get heard until 20 December 2010 […] a year later. We put in the application and when I came to check the progress, the application got lost, so I had to redo. Travel and time costs a great deal.

To build and live on Māori land, shareholders need to comply with Te Ture Whenua Māori Act 1993. Landowners will need to contact the Māori Land Court to get information on what type of order or licence they should get so they can live on the block of land in question.

Each local Māori Land Court has a Principal Liaison Officer whose role is to advise owners of Māori land. Principal Liaison Officers are also responsible for relationships between the Māori Land Court and other relevant agencies, including HNZC, TPK, and local and regional authorities. The Māori Land Court publishes a range of booklets that explain the law about Māori land and the different options available to owners of Māori land who want to develop it.

Mostly, Māori Land Court staff do not have a good grasp of local authority planning requirements. This means that landowners will not know whether their plans will comply with the district plan, even after they have secured the necessary legal rights to build on the land.

The service, advice, and guidance that landowners receive from Māori Land Court offices varies. Our interviews with Māori trusts and landowners indicate that some people found it hard to get the advice and support they needed. In one Māori Land Court office, the Principal Liaison Officers have not been able to provide as effective a service as they would like because of a backlog of work for their particular district.

In our 2004 report on the Court's administration, we noted a need for better communication and co-ordination between the Court and the other agencies involved with Māori land issues.4 Principal Liaison Officers in the regions where we audited are increasingly working with local authorities to improve co-ordination, but there is scope for much more effective communication between the Court, HNZC, and local authorities.

Even a small block of multiply-owned Māori land can have hundreds of shareholders. And, for the land to be developed, a majority of shareholders need to approve the proposal, either directly or through their election of a land trust. Nearly 70% of Māori land titles have no trust or management structure. This means that shareholders who want to live on a block of land have to contact their fellow shareholders to get their approval before submitting an application for an Occupation Order.

If there is a trust in place to manage the land, the process is usually simpler. The shareholder applies for a Licence to Occupy from the trust, which (if granted) has only to be noted by the Māori Land Court.

If there is no trust or governance organisation over the land, the Māori Land Court needs to be satisfied that most shareholders have had the opportunity to consider any plans to develop the land before granting an Occupation Order. Contacting the shareholders can be challenging – many will not live on or near the particular block of land, and some will be overseas.

In 2004, we recommended that the Court create a centralised database of Māori landowner addresses so that people could more easily contact shareholders.5 In 2011, the Court introduced a Māori land Geographic Information System. This provides detailed information about all Māori land in written and picture form, where this information is known. The Māori Land Court relies on shareholders to update their contact information. The information in the database is not always complete. The Court provides help with contacting shareholders and makes its website available for shareholders to advertise notices about Occupation Orders. Despite this, finding and contacting other shareholders remains a barrier to gaining consent to build on Māori land.

At the local authority

[I] went and visited [the District Council] at the Office, they were very helpful, they granted the OK to build and informed me that I didn't have to pay resource consent as it was the second dwelling on the land.

Local authorities regulate land use in their area through the district plan. They also set Development and/or Financial Contributions (which can be required under the Local Government Act 2002 and the Resource Management Act 1991, respectively). Owners of Māori land will need to find out from their local authority how their land is zoned. They will need to discuss their intentions with staff to find out whether they need to apply for resource consent and also whether there are any other matters that need to be managed (such as road access or environmental concerns).

Staff at local authorities can advise on housing plans and explain what needs to be done to comply with local planning regulations. Owners of Māori land have found that Māori Land Court and local authority officers do not understand each other's processes and roles well, which has meant that the owners have to visit the Māori Land Court and local authority offices repeatedly.

Māori landholders get better service where there is communication between local authorities and Māori Land Court offices. In Whakatane, Whangarei, and Tauranga, the local authorities and the Māori Land Court have met to better understand each other's processes and to consider how to co-ordinate their support.

In Part 6, we describe how local authorities plan and regulate Māori land.

At the Māori Trustee

The Māori Trustee6 administers or manages an estimated 105,000 hectares of Māori freehold land. It collects around $18 million each year in rent and other income on behalf of owners and holds several million dollars of unclaimed money. Generally, the Māori Trustee does not provide advice on housing issues. Many of the trusts and whānau we spoke with said that they would like to see the Māori Trustee take more interest in proposed housing projects on Māori land.

At Housing New Zealand Corporation

HNZC gave us the spirit, and ensured we were focused on what they needed.

At the time of our audit, HNZC was the main source of advice about getting finance to build housing on Māori land. HNZC currently manages the two main sources of finance for building on Māori land – Kāinga Whenua loans (which are issued by Kiwibank but underwritten by HNZC) and the MDP fund. In the case of Kāinga Whenua loans, HNZC received no extra funding to provide support and advice for applicants, which it says constrained its ability to help people through the process.

Because of funding constraints, HNZC was restricted in the training it could provide to front-desk staff on advice and guidance about housing on Māori land or the financial products that HNZC manages. HNZC told us that, even if it were funded to provide that advice, it is unlikely that it would have trained their front-desk staff, because it is too complicated an area. We expected that front-desk staff in regions likely to receive a higher number of enquiries would be trained to have at least a basic working knowledge of the financial support products.

HNZC has useful information on its website, including a booklet that explains how to apply for a Kāinga Whenua loan. However, this information is not usually publicly available in HNZC's local branches.

In each region, an HNZC project manager gives support to applicants for the MDP fund and Kāinga Whenua. The project managers' work is well regarded by trusts and whānau, but regular staff changes have damaged relationships. The project managers have a wide-ranging role that includes liaising with third-sector housing providers and managing Housing Innovation Fund (HIF) applications.

In Part 6, we describe how HNZC has managed the Kāinga Whenua loans and the MDP fund.

At Kiwibank

Kiwibank provides the Kāinga Whenua loans. The bank assesses applicants according to eligibility criteria set by HNZC and its own credit policies. Not all Kiwibank staff and not all NZ Post's front-desk staff are trained in how Kāinga Whenua works. Normally, Kiwibank's contact centre staff and NZ Post's front-desk staff would refer customers to the specialist lenders so customers can receive more detailed information. This is because the comparatively low number of enquiries to the contact centres and any given PostShop means that it is inefficient to train all staff. Any front-desk staff member who does receive an enquiry about Kāinga Whenua will, in most cases, not have had such an enquiry before.

We consider that targeted training of staff in those regions most likely to receive inquiries could improve the customer experience.

At other agencies

[Our] primary contact [with the New Zealand Transport Authority] was via phone. Provided the OK that road access wasn't an issue. The lady was prompt and got the information to me on the same day.

Owners of Māori land will often contact other organisations. For example, local authorities will sometimes advise landowners to check any road access issues with the NZTA. The Ministry of Health's Healthy Housing Programme can also be used to help improve housing on Māori land. Some Māori trusts and trust boards provide social and health services and can also provide advice and guidance on housing issues.

Good practice in providing advice and guidance

If the Council have an issue they can talk to us or we can invite them to the marae for a hui. We have a good relationship at a hapū level.

There is unseen value of getting people out to the communities, to meet whānau, show where their lands are, there is a need for wrap around support, to sit down with local communities, attend monthly meetings, go to marae hui and ask the people what their housing problems and solutions are.

Update the information they have on offer.

Ensure reception staff are trained to help "on to it", that they know their job and not whakahihi – arrogant.

When agencies meet to discuss Māori land issues, landowners get a better level of service. In some areas, agencies have recognised the need to take a co-ordinated response to housing proposals on multiply-owned Māori land. Local authorities, in particular, are well placed to co-ordinate a more-aligned support structure for people who want to build housing on Māori land. They have a valuable knowledge of growth, spatial planning, and land-use strategies as well as awareness of some of the local barriers to developing Māori land for housing.

Our people are vulnerable to changes of personnel; over the years it has been the good will of agency staff willing to work with Māori that has been vital to housing development. I have seen that on the ground it is hard for collaboration to occur between agencies and Māori.

Figure 25 sets out some examples of good practice in providing information and advice about housing on Māori land.

Figure 25
Examples of good practice in providing information and advice

Learning about each other's procedures and legislation
Whangarei City Council and the Māori Land Court have met to inform each other of the processes and policies they have and to consider how they can streamline the advice and guidance they provide to owners of Māori land. Communicating more effectively has helped both agencies improve the services they offer.
Supporting the sharing of knowledge and experience
TPK used SHAZ funds to help a group in Auckland who were planning a housing development to visit a completed development in Tauranga. This allowed them to see what a successful housing development looks like and also to learn good practice and what to avoid.
Joint agency stakeholder group – Manukau
Agencies effectively supported a small hap housing development when they were brought together as a stakeholder group. The group included HNZC, TPK, Manukau City Council, and non-government organisations. Bringing the different agencies together gave the trust the information it needed to apply for MDP funding. It also helped it to access expertise that it did not have.
Responding jointly – The Bay of Plenty Joint Agency Working Group for Māori Housing
The Joint Agency Working Group (JAG) was formed in 2009 to co-ordinate the work of the range of entities involved in housing on Māori land in the Bay of Plenty. Initially, JAG focused on one particular block of multiply-owned Māori land where there was a proposal to build houses around an existing marae. JAG includes TPK, the Māori Land Court, Western Bay of Plenty District Council, Tauranga City Council, HNZC, and some Māori land trusts.

Western Bay of Plenty District Council co-ordinates the Group, which is chaired by the Council's Group Manager. Bringing together the main agencies involved in housing on Māori land has allowed JAG to pool resources and share knowledge about each other's role. Specifically, the outputs of JAG have been:
  • Te Keteparaha mo ngā Papakāinga – This toolkit for housing development on Māori land provides guidance to trusts on the different stages of developing land for housing. It is available on the Western Bay of Plenty District Council's website.
  • Establishing the Papakāinga Focus Group – This group of Māori land trusts with interests in developing their land for housing contributed to changes in how Māori land is zoned for housing in the revisions of the district plans at Western Bay of Plenty District Council and Tauranga City Council.
Recommendation 1
We recommend that the various agencies involved in providing advice and support co-ordinate what they do locally by:
  • having one organisation act as a single point of contact for Māori who want to build housing on their land;
  • agreeing a shared process that sets out who will work with Māori who want to build on their land and when; and
  • having staff with relevant expertise and knowledge available to provide high-quality information and advice.

The effect of information and advice on those who want to use Māori land for housing

Figure 26 sets out the effects of current information and advice on our three scenarios for trying to build housing on Māori land.

Figure 26
Effect of current information and advice on three types of Māori groups seeking to build housing on their land

An individual or whānau with shares in Māori land and wants to build or move a single house on to part of the land block.

The whānau has a low income and wants to apply for a Kāinga Whenua loan.
There is no single provider of advice on how to get finance or what they need to do to build on their land, so the whānau will visit or contact at least four different agencies to get their plans under way – HNZC for general funding information, Kiwibank to get provisional acceptance for a loan, the local authority for planning and compliance information, and the Māori Land Court.

When the whānau visit their local HNZC branch, front-desk staff are unlikely to be able to help with specific questions about Māori land. Although HNZC has published a booklet on Kāinga Whenua, copies are not normally available in the HNZC branches. The staff have not been trained in how Kāinga Whenua works; nor do they know about Māori Land Court processes or local authority procedures. They may book an appointment for the whānau to meet with the local HNZC project manager, who will be able to talk to them about their plans and discuss Kāinga Whenua. This is unlikely to be on the day that the whānau have visited.

Generally, HNZC project managers have good knowledge about the MDP fund and Kāinga Whenua. However, some project managers know more than others about Māori land issues and requirements of the Māori Land Court.

At their local Māori Land Court, the whānau can get information on what it should do to be able to build on the land and comply with Te Ture Whenua Māori Act 1993. However, they will not be able to get information on the local authority requirements. If there is no trust over the land, the whānau will have to contact most of the shareholders to get their consent for a Licence to Occupy. This could mean contacting hundreds of shareholders. The database of shareholders contains incomplete information, so the whānau may have to carry out research to find out where other shareholders live. The whānau can get some help from Māori Land Court staff and can use the Māori Land Court website to advertise notice of meetings about its housing plans.

The whānau will have to visit their local authority planning team to find out how its land is zoned and whether they need resource consent. Some local authorities have trained their staff on Māori land issues and can provide the whānau with good advice on what to do. In other local authorities, the planning staff know very little about Māori land and the requirements of the Māori Land Court.

At the local TPK office, the whānau may be able to get some general advice but they are likely to be advised to visit their local Māori Land Court or HNZC. TPK may note the enquiry and forward the information to the SHAZ staff at the TPK office in Wellington.
A small ahu whenua trust that plans to build a small number of houses on their land.

The trust has little cash and requires voluntary work to help with administration.
The trust will be able to get some advice from its local HNZC project manager, who will explain the criteria for the MDP fund and advise the trust about whether it would be eligible. However, front-desk HNZC staff are unlikely to know much about the MDP fund.

At TPK, the trust will be able to get some basic information and will be directed to the manager of the SHAZ fund. The manager is based in Wellington but travels regularly. It is the type of trust the SHAZ normally supports to help plan and design a housing project.

The Principal Liaison Officer at the local Māori Land Court will discuss the different options the trust has to apportion the land and what types of orders will be applicable.

Because the trust plans to build more than one house, the trustees will need to check how the land is zoned. It is likely that resource consent will be required. The local authority planning staff will also have information on servicing and infrastructure. Some local authorities, such as Whangarei and Western Bay of Plenty District Councils, have staff with specialist knowledge about housing on Māori land.
A larger Māori trust or iwi governance organisation with plans to build housing for its beneficiaries.

This iwi governance organisation does not own land but has beneficiaries who do.
The organisation can discuss with beneficiaries who own land about using it for housing. The organisation will be able to apply for MDP funds to help pay for the development. Staff from HNZC are likely to meet with it to discuss what type of housing development it proposes to build and how this might be done in partnership with HNZC.

Iwi authorities that have completed their settlements may be in a position to purchase expert advice and consultancy in the design for their project. Some may use part of their settlement as matched funding for partnerships with government agencies.

Critical success factors for effective advice and guidance

Information and advice: Critical success factors for agencies

Information and advice is more likely to be provided in an effective manner where:

  • agencies meet as a group to decide how best to respond jointly to housing plans on Māori land;
  • there is an agreed protocol for providing a simple support package for owners of Māori land who want to use their land for housing;
  • where possible, funding is pooled so that it can be used more effectively;
  • agencies know about each others' processes and requirements – in particular, all agencies involved have a relevant knowledge and understanding of the process owners of Māori land would need to go through under Te Ture Whenua Māori Act 1993 and the Resource Management Act 1991; and
  • agencies communicate regularly with owners of Māori land to find out about their plans for their land.

Information and advice: Critical success factors for owners of Māori land

Māori landowners are more likely to successfully make their way through the process where they:

  • speak with other landowners who have built on their land to find out what worked well;
  • consider establishing a trust if there is no trust for the block of land (the local Māori Land Court can advise them about how to do this);
  • bring the different agencies together to discuss their housing project and to find out what type of support they can offer; and
  • use the free guidance available, such as the Māori housing toolkit from Western Bay of Plenty District Council and Hastings District Council's papakāinga guide.7

4: Controller and Auditor-General (2004), Māori Land Administration: Client Service Performance of the Māori Land Court Unit and the Māori Trustee, Wellington, page 14.

5: Controller and Auditor-General (2004), Māori Land Administration: Client Service Performance of the Māori Land Court Unit and the Māori Trustee, Wellington, page 14.

6: See

7: Readers can find these online by searching Hastings District Council's website ( for the "papakāinga development guide", and Western Bay of Plenty District Council's website ( for the "Maori housing toolkit".

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