Relaxation of Control of Maori Lands
The object of Maori Land Development as laid down by Sir A. T. Ngata, the founder of the Maori Land Development Schemes, was to farm and develop land until debts were repaid, and at this stage the question of tenure or return of the land to the owners was to be considered. 2. The fear uppermost in the minds of most Maoris when Sir Apirana Ngata and supervisors first expounded the advantager which would accrue to the Maori land owners if they took advantage of the Government's offer to provide finance to assist them in their farming operations, was that it was a Government scheme to obtain possession of their lands. It was frequently expressed by opponents of the scheme that once there was a debt on the land it would never return to Maori control.
It has always been the policy of the Department, where lands are unsuitable for subdivision or where the owners desire that the lands be farmed by them under an incorporation, to hand over control as soon as the financial position permits, and reasonable safeguards are made to ensure successful continuation of farming operations. This policy also applies to individual farmers.
Safeguards which the Board of Maori Affairs requires before stations are released are that satisfactory arrangements are made for repayment of debt (if any), that a competent manager is employed, that station business be carried on through a reputable firm of stock and station agents, and that the books be kept by a registered accountant.
From the inception of development to September 30, 1953, including stations farmed by the Maori Trustee and Maori Land Boards, 23 stations, comprising 78,487 acres, have been returned to the control of the Maori owners. The bulk of these properties were taken over in a derelict condition on expiry of leases and through financial difficulties following the depression. Most of the properties returned were fully stocked and had substantial credits after providing for taxation.
In addition to those stations returned to the owners, a further eleven, comprising 70,964 acres, are substantially in credit and the owners have been advised the areas can be released as soon as they complete arrangements for incorporation. In some cases the owners have requested the Department to continue to farm the lands pending completion of a consolidation scheme, or to enable the committee to obtain a better working knowledge of how to prepare station estimates and to control property generally by working in conjunction with our field staff. It has been agreed that the Department will continue to farm these lands up to a period of two years, by which time the committees should, if competent, be able to successfully farm the properties, as they will be handed back with substantial credits sufficient to create a maintenance and dividend reserve. It is the Department's sincere wish that the Maori owners should make a complete success of their future farming ventures.
The committees of management are appointed by the owners, and are selected on account of their farming experience, leadership and business ability, and should, with this background, be capable of carrying out successfully future farming operations.
There are many incorporations in the Gisborne district who have, for many years, successfully farmed these lands and have paid substantial but prudent dividends to the owners.
With markets buoyant substantial profits should continue to be made, but with the passing of the years depreciation will be heavier than in the past.
In the long run the success of the farming of released properties will depend on the extent to which ample reserves are created for maintenance, and top-dressing is carried out to preserve the fertility of the land.
‘Hatu ngarongaro he tangata poitu he whenua’.