'Really, really unjust': Green Party calls for end to perpetual leases

Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson and Māori Development spokesperson Dr Elizabeth Kerekere.

The Green Party has called on the Government to end perpetual leases on Māori land, saying it rips off Māori landowners and is "unjust".

The policy announcement was made at the Copthorne Hotel near the Waitangi Treaty grounds on Saturday.

Green Party Māori Development spokesperson Elizabeth Kerekere said land reserved for Māori was leased to European settlers 120 years ago, "at the expense and serious disadvantage of those Māori landowners".

"The government took control of the land and leased it out for next to nothing, with the right to renew forever. They did this without the consent of the Māori landowners."

She said the injustice continued as leaseholders still paid "well below market rate" to lease land, such as the Tuatini Township blocks in Tokomaru Bay.

“If Māori landowners want to regain control of their own land, they are forced to buy out the lease at full market rate.

“Perpetual leases are an outdated and unjust colonial weapon that was abolished in the United Kingdom over 100 years ago. In no other context would this be acceptable."

She said some landowners would stand across the road from their land and look at it, because they could not go on the land without being trespassed. That's their land, for which they get next to nothing [from].

"They don't have access to it. That's multi-generational poverty.

"It's actually been quite heartbreaking."

Kerekere said people had suffered and it was an injustice that could be "simply ended by law".

"We could do this this year."

Kerekere said Māori landowners could opt to continue existing leases, except with "terms they agree, and that they specify".

She said it affected about 26,000 hectares nationally particularly concentrated in the west coast of the South Island, Nelson / Motueka and Taranaki.

Kerekere said she had not discussed the policy with Labour.

Asked about whether there would be compensation for the existing leaseholders, Kerekere said that would be a call for the Government and said the Māori landowners were also due compensation.

Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson said the policy was a "priority" for the Greens.

The Government has been approached for comment on whether it would consider the policy.