Proposal for a new Policy on Māori Freehold Land

We’re proposing to adopt a new Policy on Remission and Postponement of Rates on Māori Freehold Land, to comply with new legislation.

Project status: Closed for feedback
Open for feedback: 11th March 2022 - 18th April 2022

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The Council has an existing Policy on Remission and Postponement of Rates on Māori Freehold Land [PDF, 123 KB]. However, in early 2021 legislation was passed amending the Local Government Act 2002 and the Local Government (Rating) Act 2002 to:

  • Make unused Māori freehold land non-rateable from 1 July 2021.
  • Write off rates arrears on unused Māori freehold land from 1 July 2021.
  • Provide that, from 1 July 2022, the Council's Māori Freehold Land Policy must support the principles set out in the Preamble to Te Ture Whenua Maori (TTWM) Act 1993
  • Requires the Council to consider remission of rates for Māori freehold land under development.

The Council needs to update its existing policy to reflect these changes.

Our proposed change

The Council proposes to adopt a new Policy on Remission and Postponement of Rates on Māori Freehold Land [PDF, 376 KB] (MFL Policy) from 1 July 2022.

The key changes are: 

  • The proposed MFL Policy explicitly recognises the principles in the Preamble to TTWM Act as objectives of the MFL Policy.
  • The current MFL Policy applies to MFL and Māori customary land (of which there is none in the Christchurch takiwā). The proposed MFL Policy may also be applied to:
    1. a Māori reservation
    2. "1967 land" - This term refers to general land that ceased to be Māori land under Part 1 of the Māori Affairs Amendment Act 1967, where the land is still owned by (the descendants of) the persons who owned it immediately it ceased to be Māori land. The 1967 amendment to the Māori Affairs Act required the Registrar of the Māori Land Court to reclassify some MFL as general land. This was sometimes done without the knowledge or agreement of the owners. The LGRA limits the actions that a local authority can take to recover unpaid rates in respect of 1967 land. In particular, it cannot carry out an abandoned land or rating sale (refer to s77(3A) and s67(3)(b)).
    3. land returned to iwi or hapū ownership through treaty settlement or a right of first refusal scheme, Māori Land Court staff have advised that, even though Ngāi Tahu have settled, whanau claims continue and sometimes include land redress.
  • The proposed MFL Policy acknowledges the new statutory remission process (in s114A of the LGRA, as inserted in 2021) which provides that the Council must consider an application for rates remission on MFL that is being developed, where the development is likely to have certain economic or social benefits.

Reasonably practicable alternative options

The Council has not identified any reasonably practicable, high-level alternative options to introducing a new MFL Policy (or amending the existing MFL Policy) to comply with and recognise the new legislation. Legislation requires the Council to do this. However, alternative ways of drafting the MFL Policy are possible, and the Council will consider any suggestions for alternative drafting, or feedback on the proposed drafting.

Māori freehold land (MFL) is land that the Māori Land Court has determined by freehold order (section 129(2)(b) of Te Ture Whenua Maori Act 1993 – TTWM Act) to have the status of Māori freehold land.

There are 159 rating units of MFL in the Christchurch City Council takiwā (district). Most are located in Rapaki, Gebbies Valley and Motukarara, and in Banks Peninsula at Koukourarata (Port Levy), Wairewa (Little River), Wainui, and Onuku. The total capital value of this land is around $38 million. In the 2021/22 rating year, the Council set rates on this land of around $94,000 including GST.

The Council acknowledges the following features of Māori freehold land:

  • Māori freehold land represents a very small proportion of land previously owned by Māori, the remainder of which has been alienated from Māori ownership and use.
  • Much of the Māori freehold land in the Christchurch City Council takiwā is either unoccupied or unimproved or only partially used.
  • Much of the land is isolated and marginal in quality.
  • Māori freehold land usually has multiple owners making it challenging for individuals with a stake to get the necessary agreement from the owners to use or develop the land.
  • Multiple ownership presents challenges in terms of administering the land including the payment of rates. This can result in significant rates arrears which may need to be paid before the land is used or developed.
  • Some land has special significance which would make it undesirable to develop or reside on.

The current Māori Freehold Land Policy [PDF, 123 KB] outlines 12 criteria for rates relief. The first of those is that that relief may be provided where "the land is not in use". This has been the most important criteria in practice.

The 12 criteria in the current Policy are listed below. The current Policy states, “In general, the criteria for granting rates relief would include some or all of the following”:

  1. the land is not in use
  2. the land is unimproved
  3. the land is land locked
  4. multiple ownership or fragmented ownership
  5. the land has particular value as ancestral land in relation to its owners’ culture and traditions
  6. the presence of wāhi tapu that may affect the use of the land for other purposes
  7. government and Council’s desire to avoid further alienation of MFL
  8. the land has particular conservation value
  9. unsecured legal title
  10. isolation and marginal in quality
  11. no management structures
  12. rating problems

In early 2021 legislation was passed amending the Local Government Act 2002 (LGA) and the Local Government (Rating) Act 2002 (LGRA) to (among other things):

  • Make unused MFL non-rateable from 1 July 2021.

     Refer to section 8 of the LGRA, and clause 14A of Part 1 of Schedule 1. The Council has previously rated these properties, but then remitted those rates. (A rates remission is where the Council pays the rates on behalf of the ratepayer). So the practical significance of unused MFL becoming non-rateable may be small. However, rates remissions are at the discretion of the Council and may be granted on a temporary basis, whereas non-rateability provides more certainty of outcome for owners of unused MFL. Non-rateability means that targeted rates for sewerage and water supply will still be set on that land (if it is within the serviced area), but other rates are not set on the land. Since some rates may still be set on those properties, it is still appropriate to have a policy under which sewer and water rates can be remitted. If a MFL rating unit is lightly used, it will be regarded as “used” so will be fully rateable. The Council’s existing MFL Policy allows the Council to achieve an equitable outcome, recognising that the property is only lightly used (e.g. one small part of it may be used while other parts remain unused).
  • Write off rates arrears on unused MFL from 1 July 2021, as per section 5A of the LGRA and clause 2(b) of Schedule 1AA.
  • Provide that, from 1 July 2022, the Council's MFL Policy must support the principles set out in the Preamble to the TTWM Act. 

    Refer to sections 8A and 102(3A) LGA and clause 22 of Part 4 of Schedule 1AA The preamble (English version) provides: "Whereas the Treaty of Waitangi established the special relationship between the Maori people and the Crown: And whereas it is desirable that the spirit of the exchange of kawanatanga for the protection of rangatiratanga embodied in the Treaty of Waitangi be reaffirmed: And whereas it is desirable to recognise that land is a taonga tuku iho of special significance to Maori people and, for that reason, to promote the retention of that land in the hands of its owners, their whanau, and their hapu, and to protect wahi tapu: and to facilitate the occupation, development, and utilisation of that land for the benefit of its owners, their whanau, and their hapu…"

When determining a MFL Policy, Council must consider the following matters set out in Schedule 11 of the LGA (refer to s108(4) LGA):

  • the desirability and importance of each of the objectives (see below)
  • whether, and to what extent those objectives could be prejudicially affected if there is no remission/postponement
  • whether, and to what extent those objectives are likely to be facilitated by the remission/postponement
  • the extent to which different criteria and conditions for rates relief may contribute to different objectives.

The objectives in Schedule 11 are:

  • supporting the use of the land by the owners for traditional purposes
  • recognising and supporting the relationship of Māori and their culture and traditions with their ancestral lands
  • avoiding further alienation of Māori freehold land
  • facilitating any wish of the owners to develop the land for economic use
  • recognising and taking account of the presence of waahi tapu that may affect the use of the land for other purposes
  • recognising and taking account of the importance of the land in providing economic and infrastructure support for marae and associated papakainga housing (whether on the land or elsewhere):
  • recognising and taking account of the importance of the land for community goals relating to preservation/protection of the natural environment
  • recognising the level of community services provided to the land and its occupiers
  • recognising matters related to the physical accessibility of the land.

Assessment against objectives

The Council is required by section 108(4) of the LGA to consider the matters set out in Schedule 11 of the LGA. Staff have prepared an assessment [PDF, 421 KB] against the matters (and objectives) in Schedule 11.

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Who to contact

Katy McRae,
Engagement Manager

How the decision is made

  • Closed for feedback