How many people really understand the modern approach to Maori land titles? It is a very complex subject: the Government is trying to safeguard to the Maori people all the significant holdings of Maori land, and in doing so it becomes necessary to reapportion in some way the less significant ones. As this problem concerns almost every Maori, we have obtained a series of four articles from a well-qualified expert to explain what is happening. This is the first, presented in both English and Maori.
THE STRUGGLE AGAINST FRAGMENTATION
KO TE PAKANGA MO NGA MOKAMOKA WHENUA
Ka matemate te tini o te tangata whai paanga whenua Maori ka uaua haere ka uaua haere te karawarawa i o ratou mokamoka paanga ki nga uri. Kua tae tonu ra tenei ki te wa kua pakupaku rawa atu aua mokamoka paanga, a he tino tokomaha te hunga kua kore ke e mohio he whenua ano ranei o ratou kaore ranei. He tokomaha ano te hunga i runga i te kaha paku o ratou na paanga kua kore e aro ake ki te tono ki te Kooti Whenua Maori mo te kairiiwhitanga o aua paanga, he moumou taima he moumou moni. Ko etahi ano kua noho he wahi ke kua mamoa mai i nga whenua o ratou tipuna, kua whakaaro kua kore take aua whenua me whakamoni hei kai o hei whakangata i o ratou na hiahia. Ko enei ahuatanga te putake o te awangawanga ka mau ranei i te Maori o ratou mokamoka whenua—ko te nuinga nei he whenua titohea—kaore ranei. E mau ai kei te hunga totopu o ratou na paanga te rongoa. Me whakatopu e taua hunga o ratou mokamoka paanga marara i raro i nga ture me nga awhina kua whakakaupapatia e nga Kawanatanga o roto o nga tau.
Ko ta te Maori ture o mua ka mahue te whenua ka poko nga ahi. I te wa e noho pumau ana e ka ana te ahi ka mahue ka mataotao nga kaanga ahi—ko te ahi mataotao tenei o nga korero o nga whenua o mua. Otira ko taua hunga e heke ana he wahi ke e whakakorea ana i roto o nga whenua o ratou tipuna a ka whakaurua atu ko nga iwi whakaeke. Ko ta te Maori ture tera ka whai tangata tonu mo te whenua e ngaro whakarere atu ana etahi e whakakiia ana ki nga mea whakaeke hou.
Fragmentation of Maori land becomes more and more serious as more owners die and interests are split up between their children. Already many land interests are so small that owners are ignorant of the location and description of their lands, and even of the fact that they have a right to succeed. Many potential owners of small shares do not think it worth their while to pay the fees and spend the time necessary to prosecute an application for succession. Others who have succeeded, especially the many younger people who have made their home in a place that is distant from the land, prefer to have its trifling value in cash rather than to retain their minute shares. All this adds up to a rapidly growing threat to the retention of the relatively small amount of Maori land now remaining—and much of it is poor land—by the Maori as a people. This threat can be reduced and gradually overcome if the larger owners will consolidate their shares by using the several processes of title improvement that have been provided for that purpose by succeeding Governments.
According to ancient Maori custom owners who did not occupy the land (or keep their fires burning on it—ahi-ka) would ultimately lose their ownership. The ahi-ka (burning fire) would become ahi-tere (unstable fire) after a while and would later become ahi-mataotao (cold fire or extinguished fire). This meant that some sort of balance was kept between new owners added to the title and others who lost their rights.
Rights of ownership in ancient times, took an absence of something like three generations to extinguish by this custom. In other words, the absent owner had, beyond all doubt, to have reached the “point of no return” before his fires were regarded as mataotao. Up till then his fires were ahi-tere and could again become ahi-ka if