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Reducing Rating Barriers for Māori Landowners


This article looks at the recently-enacted Local Government (Rating of Whenua Māori) Amendment Act 2021 (“the Act”), and what it means for owners and occupiers of Māori land. 

In April 2021, the Government passed significant changes to how rates are charged for Māori land.  Most of the changes outlined come into force on 1 July 2021, and make positive changes to overcome historical hurdles concerning the rating of Māori land. 

The Changes 

There are five key areas of the Act that support the development of Māori land, remove long-standing obstacles for engagement and partnership between local authorities and Māori, and equitably modernise the rating system for Māori Land.  

1. Remission of Rates for Māori Land Development

Māori landowners who are developing, or intending to develop, their land can now apply to their local Council for a rates relief on that land (known as a remission of rates).  The development could include developments that benefit the district by creating new employment opportunities, new homes, providing support for marae and facilitating the occupation development and utilisation of the land.  It is up to the local Council whether to allow for a remission of rates, but the Council must consider the mutual benefits of the development to its district and to Māori.

2. Multiple Blocks of Māori Land

Māori landowners can now apply to have two or more blocks of Māori land treated ‘as one’ for rating purposes.  This is beneficial for Māori landowners where a block of land has been subdivided over time into smaller blocks that are now too small for individual economic development.  

3. Individual Houses

The Act now enables individual houses on Māori land to be rated as if they were one rating unit.  This is positive for Māori landowners as it allows low-income homeowners on blocks with more than one home to access rates rebates.  

If homeowners are interested, they should contact their local Council as soon as possible to apply to have the  home to be set up as a separate rating area, so that the Council can calculate the new portion of the rates before the new rating year begins on 1 July 2021.  

4. Rates Arrears

Local Councils now have the power to remove rates arrears.  This means that Māori landowners can now apply to the Council to write off any outstanding rates that are unrecoverable. When a whānau member who is a landowner passes away and a member of their whānau inherit their land, that person can apply to the Council to write off the arrears existing at the time of the previous owner’s death. 

5. Ngā Whenua Rāhui Kawenata 

Māori landowners who have a kawenata agreement with the Department of Conservation in relation to the entirety or any part of their land, that land is non-rateable from 1 July 2021.  Any rates arrears existing at that date will also be written off by the Council. 

Māori freehold land that is unused will also be non-rateable from 1 July 2021, with any rates arrears on this land written off.  But, if the unused land is in an urban area, it may still be liable for urban water supply and wastewater rates.

Other Changes

Minor changes have also been made to:

  • Remove the two-hectare land area limits from rates exemptions for marae and urupā; 
  • Clarify the current exemptions for marae, meeting places, and meeting houses; 
  • Require some Council funding and financing policies to support the principles of the Preamble to Te Ture Whenua Māori Act 1993; and 
  • Provide protection to Māori land made general land under the Māori Affairs Amendment Act 1967 from abandoned land and rating sale provisions.

Carmen Mataira is a Law Clerk in our Māori Legal Team.  Kylee Katipo is a Senior Associate and can be contacted on 07 958 7424.

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