Our story is about land. About loss of land, loss of control and denied opportunity. It highlights a complex history of the perpetual leasing system and the continuing struggle to redress the wrongs and restore control of Taranaki land back into the hands of Taranaki Maori.
Read our story through the decades
Yet despite the injustice and struggles, PKW's vision to develop
the next generation of Taranaki Maori dairy farmers and
land managers is being achieved. Today, PKW is
Fonterra’s largest milk supplier in Taranaki.
Read about Farming today
Journey For Justice Begins.
In the wake of the 1865 land confiscations, many promises to return land to the rightful owners were unfulfilled. In answer to the call for justice and compensation, The West Coast Commission process was established, ultimately leading to the West Coast Settlements Reserves Act 1881.
1881 - The Legacy Of Perpetual Leases.
The legacy of perpetual leasing over PKW’s lands arises from the West Coast Settlements Reserves Act 1881. The Public Trustee was empowered to allocate to Maori such land thought necessary for their occupation and to lease the rest to Europeans generally, in perpetuity. European settlement was favoured and promoted through leasing. This Act set in place leases over the land PKW now owns and manages on behalf of its 8,500 shareholders. It is a legacy that continues. Apart from the 1997 amendments to the rental review rate and the review period, the perpetual terms of the lease remain in place as they have since the early 1880's.
"Our ancestors fought against this system for many years seeking to bring an end to the perpetual nature of the leases."
This process set in place leases over the land PKW now owns and manages on behalf of its 8,500 shareholders. It is a legacy that continues. Apart from the 1997 amendments to the rental review rate and the review period, the perpetual terms of the lease remain in place as they have since the early 1880's.
Injustice Prevails. Owners Calls To Farm Their Own Lands Denied.
Taranaki Maori voiced numerous complaints about the extent of power given to the Public Trustee. Several Commissions of Inquiry were set up however owner calls for assistance to farm their own lands were not supported. Instead, legislation was amended giving more favourable terms to lessees and allowing Crown purchase. In the 1920's there was considerable freeholding by leesees where the owners wished to sell their interests in individual sections of the land.
The Myers Commission was set up in 1948 to report on how the leasing laws operated. The Commission found that "Maori had suffered grave injustice in the reduction of their rents since 1934" and recommended options for assessing future rentals.
Mega Reserves Established. Confusion And Disagreement Reigns.
The Maori Reserved Land Act 1955 standardised the leases of Maori reserves across the country and aimed to deal with rapidly fragmenting beneficial interests by fixing leases to perpetuity.
In 1963 all the West Coast Settlement Reserves were amalgamated into a mega reserve known as Parininihi ki Waitotara Reserve then comprising 71,969 acres. While intending to simplify, this move has been a source of disagreement, pain and confusion for the owners ever since.
It gave beneficial owners shares in the whole of the lands rather than owning individual interests in just their Whakapapa-related sections and it made land sale easy because the Maori Trustee could aggregate individual sellers in order to sell blocks, even if the former owners of those blocks were opposed to selling.
By 1975 another Commission of Inquiry was set up following continuing frustration on the impact of the 1955 Act. Despite recommending a move to 5-yearly rent reviews, most of the Commission's approvals were not implemented save the one that related to setting up an incorporated body of owners to administer the reserves.
1976 - PKW Established.
The Parininihi ki Waitotara Incorporation (PKW) was established 16 February 1976. It was to receive 55,137 acres to manage and would administer the leases and rents.
Perpetual Lease Regime Hampers Goal Of Regained Control.
Under the Incorporation model former land owners were allotted share interests in the Incorporation, not the land itself.
At the time, some owners viewed this as an interim step towards the ultimate goal of regaining direct ownership and control of their property, but the perpetual lease regime still denied owners any form of control of their own lands.
During the 90’s the Government appointed various consultants and commissions to continue to address the issue of inequities faced by Maori Reserved Landowners.
In 1993, a report to the Minister of Maori Development from the Maori Reserved Lands Panel found that the leasing system "Had interfered with the natural and inherent rights of Maori land owners by ‘removing Tino Rangaitiratanga, their right to make their own decisions in respect of their land; the system has treated them like children or people under a disability incapable of making their own decisions simply because they were Maori."
1997 - The Maori Reserved Lands Amendment Act.
This was yet another attempt to balance competing owner and lessee interests. The key features of this Act included:
● Continuing the perpetual leases;
● 3 year delay before moving to market rental;
● Moving rent reviews to every 7 years (previously 21 years); and
● Giving landowners a 20 day right of first refusal (under strict conditions)
While the Act did not terminate perpetual leasing it did at least provide some mechanism for the Incorporation to purchase back leases as they became available.
Despite a modest amount of compensation being made available, a fundamental flaw in the mechanism was, and remains, the Incorporation’s inability to access sufficient capital to purchase back the leases.
Controversy Around The Act.
The passage of the Maori Reserved Lands Amendment Bill was not without controversy and heightened tensions within Taranaki. The Waitangi Tribunal had released its interim report into the Taranaki claims in 1996 and Taranaki Maori expectations were high, buoyed by the Tainui settlement negotiations.
Some lessees fear of and objection to changes proposed in the Bill were so great that they threatened armed resistance to the change. While this sort of talk was an extreme minority it shows the depth of feeling on the part of some of the lessees at the time. Some were angry enough to jump on their tractors, and drive to Wellington to voice their protest.
In debating the Bill, the then Minister of Maori Affairs Tau Henare described the Maori Reserved Land Act as “one of the most discriminatory pieces of legislation that remain on our statute book” but noted that the Bill did not achieve the return of the freehold. He went on to note his opinion that "the Bill is not all that Maori want, and it is certainly less than they deserve".
Leader of the Oppostion Helen Clark noted that at the end of the day "an imbalance" had "crept into the Bill". "That imbalance was that the issue of compensation for the past losses of the Maori lessors was not able to be tackled in this Bill, whereas a last-minute trade-off was able to be done for the lessees."
1998 - PKW Sets Long Term Goal To Farm Lands.
Undaunted, PKW devised a long term plan in 1998 to purchase strategic leases for the purpose of at last entering into the Dairy Industry and farming the lands. From the outset the project was identified as a capital intensive project due to the fundamental requirement for PKW to purchase the leases before any work could begin. This process was made even more difficult by the New Zealand Dairy Industry Restructure, which had taken place during the early 1990's.
Prohibitive Costs To Enter Dairy Industry.
Following the restructure of NZ Dairy Industry, the right to supply milk was unbundled out and new entrants were required to purchase shares to gain the right to supply milk. PKW, on behalf of its owners, must now purchase the lessees improvements and pay an additional premium to gain the dairy shares. Therefore, while the owners now have the opportunity to work their lands they face increasingly prohibitive barriers to entry.
This process effectively continues the historic disadvantage to PKW and its shareholders by raising the overall cost of purchasing back leases. It effectively continues the denial of opportunity faced by our ancestors and causes significant frustration.
Today Cashflow Key To Purchasing Leases And Regaining Control.
Increases in the value of dairy shares continue today to place significant pressure on the ability of PKW to take up first rights of refusal as they become available. To date all acquisitions have been debt funded, however this strategy is ultimately limited by the Incorporation’s ability to generate cashflow leading to the perverse situation where land sale is a consideration in order to secure strategically important leases.
Approximately 20,000 hectares of PKW land remains subject to perpetually renewable leases until such time as the Incorporation can source the funds to take up future first rights of refusal.
Positive Future Despite Obstacles.
Against the odds and despite the unfair systems, PKW is a strong entitiy in the business of innovative, sustainable farm management.
Through its Farming operations, PKW is now Fonterra’s largest milk supplier. As caretaker of the land, PKW aims to maximize productivity and profitability for shareholder dividend, towards a time when they will once again control and manage their ancestral lands themselves.