TE AO HOU THE NEW WORLD
As this issue goes to press all thoughts are turned towards our New Queen, who was crowned on June 2. Our Queen Elizabeth II already, before her Coronation, stirred the imagination of her subjects to an unusual degree. To the Maori people the Royal Family has traditionally had an especially deep and personal significance, as the Sovereign is respected as the highest and most sacred Chief of Maoridom.
At home, a Bill of the greatest importance to all Maori land owners is now in Committee. A change in the law governing titles to Maori land was not only desirable but inevitable if the land was ever to become capable of being used. As it is now, blocks are owned by hundreds, sometimes thousands of persons, whose shares are often ludicrously small. As the law stands, we can expect that the number of these owners will multiply endlessly from generation to generation. Before the Pakeha came, there was a Maori custom by which the rights of an owner who did not occupy the land ‘grew cold’, so that for the new owners coming into the title in each generation, others would lose their rights. It was the discontinuance of this custom that was largely responsible for the present confusion.
The part of the new Bill which restricts the right to pass on land by inheritance to what are called ‘economic interests’ will prevent a splintering up of the smaller shares, and gradually make the very small shares almost disappear from the Maori Land Court records. (See the article in this issue.)
The Maori people have been as helpful as the Government. From the time the Bill was first presented to the House last year, Maori leaders have discussed it and have made their representations to the Government. These representations have, in the main, concerned the details and the machinery of the Bill, but among all the representations made so far there have been very few disagreeing with the general idea of a drastic change in the law governing Maori titles.
It is regrettable that custom of so many years standing—even though not exactly dating from ancient times—has to pass away, but the necessity to open up the land for farming overides all other considerations. The practical and commonsense tone of the public discussion of the Bill is to be highly commended.