Major issues of concern covered included Crown land, and the key difference between land acquired by warrant or by lease. Also discussed was how government compensated landowners once land is acquired.
Clerk of the House of Ariki, Puna Rakanui told CINews that in instances where land is warranted, land owners are fully compensated, upfront.
The concern is landowners may not be fully aware that under this type of agreement they no longer hold legal title over the property, he says.
Rakanui said though there had only been a few cases across the country involving land acquisition, the House of Ariki wanted to create a greater awareness among landowners in dealing with future warrant and lease agreements, so they were fully informed of their rights.
The traditional leaders also looked at cases where property was leased and how they could protect traditional land owners from losing their properties when lease holders defaulted on their mortgages, and land was seized by the bank.
Even if landowners were given first right of refusal for sale, they might not necessarily have the funds to purchase the property, Rakanui said.
The House of Ariki wanted to consult with government as to how traditional landowners could protect their properties when a mortgagee defaulted and from potential foreign ownership, he added.
The House of Ariki would also explore with government the possibility of accessing unclaimed money from outstanding rent owed to landowners. This could be used to purchase property on leased land that had been subject to foreclosure, Rakanui added.
“When paid lease money is not claimed within a specified time period, the funds become ‘unclaimed monies’.”
Another area of concern covered in yesterday’s meeting included absentee land owners.
“We do not know where many of them are.”
He said this was causing concern in the case of some land applications, as Cook Islanders residing in New Zealand or Australia were often unavailable to confirm agreement to a change of land titles.
Rakanui said this had a major flow on effect in the community when land could not be developed for public services. It also impacted on the economy.
“This is becoming a burden to Cook Islanders and we will be making recommendations to government.”
The House of Ariki is also looking into vested orders, as once land is vested in certain people, it becomes their legal title, as typically seen in an inheritance.
In the afternoon sitting of the House, Iaveta Short addressed the ariki and spoke on their importance today and in the past and their potential future leadership.