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Legal experts unpick Māori land reforms

One of New Zealand’s top law firms has joined the chorus of legal experts heavily critical of the controversial Te Ture Whenua Maori Bill, adding more weight to the evidence that the reforms fall well beneath the robust legal standards expected of them, says Ikaroa-Rawhiti MP Meka Whaitiri.

“The submission from Kensington Swan, one of the top law firms heard at select committee today, completely unpicks the reforms on points of law.

“Their highly detailed submission opposes the Bill for its complexity, the significant cost and time for Māori landowners to transition and assure compliance with the Bill, the lack of detail on the Māori Land Service and the weak economic case for the reforms.

“They also assert that the objectives of the reforms could be achieved through amendments to the existing act.

“These are legal experts who have been heavily involved in Māori and Treaty legal matters, given expert evidence on Māori land issues to the Waitangi Tribunal and worked closely with Māori organisations in land development for an extensive period.

“They are just the latest in a line of legal experts, following the Māori Land Court judges, the NZ Law Society, the Ngai Tahu Maori Law Centre, Tai Tokerau Community Law and the Human Rights Commission who all oppose this Bill on matters of legal principle and technical issues.

“The legal experts know this is a poorly drafted, high-risk piece of legislation.

“Throughout the review process Māori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell ignored the legal expertise of the Maori Land Court judges and the Law Commission, who had major input into the original legislation and he has ended up with an unworkable Bill which falls well below acceptable legal standards.

“Te Ururoa Flavell must withdraw this Bill. If it does proceed, I strongly urge the Maori Affairs Select Committee to seek an independent review of the Act by the Law Commission,” says Meka Whaitiri.