MAORI SMALL FARMING to be Assisted
The Board of Maori Affairs has decided to give its full support to Maori small farming. Hitherto the Board of Maori Affairs has practically restricted itself to financing dairy and sheep farming; help to croppers was arranged by the Maori Land Boards, in those districts where the Board Presidents were prepared to take the heavy risks. The Board of Maori Affairs, at its November meeting, resolved to extend its activities so as to control all Maori land development activities.
The Board of Maori Affairs was of course, primarily moved to its resolution by the Government's decision that the Maori Trustee and the Maori Land Boards were to divest themselves of the control and operation of Maori lands under section 523 of the Maori Land Act, 1931, and section 25 of the Maori Trustee Act, 1930. The Government saw no reason why there should be two types of land development bodies (the Maori Trustee and the Maori Land Boards), doing a job with which the main body responsible for the financing of Maori farming (the Board of Maori Affairs) was fully qualified to deal.
The Board of Maori Affairs will eventually take over all the land development activities of the Maori Trustee and the Maori Land Boards. It will operate two plans for assisting the Maoris in horticulture.
Development of New Areas
Plan A: A considerable area of highly fertile Maori land suitable for market gardening, is lying idle and not paying rates. Should these areas pass into the hands of the Maori Trustee under section 34 of the Maori Purposes Act, 1950, and be offered for lease, for a sufficient period to repay the rates, the Maori owners will probably end up by being the employees of the lessees. It is
important that everything is done to prevent this. The Board of Maori Affairs is prepared to finance the development of areas suitable for market gardening, to build homes on these areas, and to put them into the hands of a suitable occupier approved by the owners and the Board of Maori Affairs.
Conditions of loans will be:
The land should be gazetted under Part I of the Maori Land Amendment Act, 1936.
The owners should give security of tenure to the occupier. (This means: the owners should get at least a long-term lease.)
The Department of Maori Affairs should supervise the cropping operations and the marketing.
Bills of sale should be taken over chattels, crops and produce.
Settlers established as croppers in this way are paid a living allowance of £6 per week until money comes in from sale of produce. Interest on advances will be at the rate of 4¾% and interest of 2½% will be allowed on loan accounts in credit. Commission will be charged at the rate of 5% on the gross proceeds of sales of crops handled by the department.
Finance will be obtainable at short notice within the limits of a reasonable overdraft fixed beforehand.
Assistance to Croppers
Plan B: The Board of Maori Affairs has been authorized by Cabinet to make advances to Maori croppers on the security of liens of the crops in the same way as the Maori Land Boards used to do. These advances will be made where the cropper only needs a limited sum for a limited period. Up to 50% of the estimated market value of crops will be advanced. Interest will be at 5% and marketing commission will also be payable.
Land Should Be Safeguarded
These policy changes will not affect the public a great deal. The same facilities are available as before, and the same officers will be dealing with the loan applications. It is only the source of the money that is different. In the long run it will probably appear that diversified farming will go ahead faster with the full weight of the Board of Maori Affairs behind it. Much will depend, of course, on the success that individual croppers achieve in the next few years. Experience of the past teaches the virtues of extreme caution where cropping is concerned, and only suitable men and suitable land can be considered.
In the meantime all those who have suitable holdings and feel genuinely anxious to grow crops on them should contact the department so that the scope of horticultural activities can be seen and facts are available on the amount of supervision that may be necessary. It is now in the hands of the Maori people themselves to see that small land holdings suitable for horticulture, are not lost to them and their descendants.