Legislation affecting Maoris and Maori land during the 1954 session of Parliament comprised two Acts: the Maori Vested Lands Administration Act, and the annual Maori Purposes Act.
The Maori Vested Lands Administration Act provides for the continued administration by the Maori Trustee of 161,000 acres of Maori land known as the ‘vested lands,’ and settles various questions concerning the rights of the lessees and the owners. The lands are those which early in the century were vested in the Maori Land Boards for lease to Europeans for a limited period. With these leases, 390 in number, either already expired or expiring by the end of 1957, it became necessary to settle points concerning the future of the lands by legislation, following the Royal Commission of 1951.
Maori Purposes Act
This ‘washing up’ Act, as is usual each year, deals with a number of particular matters.
A slight change is made in the law about the accounts in connection with the Department's Maori Housing operations, which have to be presented to Parliament each year. This is to bring into line all the various statements of accounts which have to be laid before Parliament.
Another section records the settlement of a long standing claim against the Crown by the Ngati Whakaue people of Rotorua, in connection with the Pukeroa Oruawhata Block upon which the town of Rotorua now stands. This was effected by the payment of compensation of £16,500, the amount recommended by a Royal Commission in 1948.
A special provision deals with the administration of Ratana Settlement lands. The special Trust Board set up to control this settlement has had difficulty in carrying out its wide functions. One of the main problems is housing, and this has been impossible to overcome owing to land title difficulties. The Maori Purposes Act provides for the replacement of the Trust Board by trustees to be appointed by the Court to hold the land (apart from sites of public buildings, etc., which will be controlled by other trustees) on trust, to subdivide it into house and business sites, and sell or lease these sites to the people. This will open the way for the lending of money for housebuilding under the Maori Housing Act.
Another section gives to the Court of Appeal and the Maori Appellate Court certain powers needed to complete proceedings in the Court of Appeal about the ownership of the bed of the Wanganui River.
One other matter dealt with is the settlement of the rights of people interested in purchase money paid on the purchase by the Crown, of Stewart Island (Rakiura) in 1864. By arrangement at the time, some of the purchase money was held by the Government, and interest paid on it to the sellers and their successors. The number of people entitled to this interest has grown through succession, and they have agreed to accept a lump sum payment in full discharge of their interests. The Maori Purposes Bill authorises this method of settlement.