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New Zealand Journal of Forestry (2006) 51(1): 28–33
©New Zealand Institute of Forestry

Professional Papers
Forestry on Maori Land

G. Thorp

This paper describes issues specific to Maori landowners with regard to using their lands for plantation forestry. In order to best understand this, a brief history of Maori land ownership, and associated practical constraints on utilising such lands, is provided. An ability to take a long term view on land-use is identified as the primary characteristic which sets Maori landowners apart from most other freehold owners, and this approach is considered to be consistent with forestry as a land use. There is recognition by most owners and by Trustees that they have a limited time as kaitiaki of the land, and that they are obliged to leave the asset in at least as good a condition and situation as when they start. Ownership and historical links with other lands and waterways in a district leads to a holistic approach to land use, with consideration given to off-forest effects. Generation of employment for beneficial owners is recognised as being an important consideration in land use decisions, though over time this emphasis can change toward generating financial returns for all owners. While protecting and respecting waahi tapu is very important to the landowners, few difficulties are experienced in accommodating this within the framework of forestry management. The bureaucratic and consensual nature of managing activities on Maori lands are beneficial for long term stability, but do impose significant costs to productive utilisation of the land. Large numbers of owners, difficulties in locating owners, and the small shareholding of many owners, are seen as impediments to easy distribution of profits back to the owners. Many owners are either unaware or unwilling to succeed to their parents or grandparents shares in land blocks, this requiring applying to the Maori Land Court, and paying a fee. These impediments will increase over time as owner numbers increase. Lake Taupo Forest Trust is used as an example of a Maori Trust with large forest assets. Access for recreational land use is an important consideration for many owners. LTFT issues around 1,750 permits/year for owners to access their lands – mainly for hunting. The environmental benefits of forestry are increasingly being recognised by regulating authorities. However the reaction of most such authorities is to try and capture these benefits, or values, by insisting that the landowners continue to provide these benefits. The control of excess nitrogen entering into Lake Taupo is provided as one such example. The proposed control measures will see owners of forestry and undeveloped lands be forced to stay in this land use in perpetuity, while those responsible for the excess nitrogen emissions – farmers – are permitted to continue their pollution.
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