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Re-thinking individualisation: Maori land development policy and the law in the age of Ngata (1920-1940).

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Canterbury Law Review, 25, Jan-52

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This comprehensive article examines the Māori land development policy and law during Sir Āpirana Ngata's tenure as Minister of Native Affairs, focusing on legislation enacted in 1929.

The article provides a wealth of historical examination of Ngata, the political climate, the programme, and the broader historical contexts. The paper argues that Ngata’s land development program was historically and legally pivotal, marking a shift from state acquisition of Māori land to its development for Māori benefit. Despite its ambitious goals, the programme’s execution faced significant challenges, including managerial inefficiencies and a failure to reconcile developed land ownership models, leading to Ngata’s resignation. The article also contextualises the program within broader socio-political and economic transformations affecting Māori society, including the impact of the Great Depression, the shift in government policy following the Labour Party’s rise to power in 1935, and the programme’s evolution post-Ngata. As Boast notes of the new Labour government, Ngata’s disillusion with Labour’s administration of his development scheme project is clear. It was not that the new Labour Government that took office in 1935 was anti-Māori, Boast continues, or indifferent to Māori but rather, much bigger transformations were in play by the 1930s and it is within these transformations that Ngata’s disenchantment must be understood. The article provides a critical analysis of the programme’s significance, its historical context, and the complex challenges it faced, including administrative failures and policy shifts that undermined its objectives. The article also delves into the broader implications of these developments for Māori land policy and socioeconomic status, highlighting the tension between individual and collective land ownership models and the program’s legacy in the face of economic, political, and social changes. By examining the interplay between Ngata’s vision, government policy, and Māori aspirations, Boast illuminates the nuanced dynamics of Māori land development and its enduring impact on New Zealand’s legal and social landscape. This work is essential for understanding the intricacies of Māori land policy and the intersection of law, politics, and indigenous rights in New Zealand, offering insights into the challenges of legislating for cultural and economic revitalisation within a changing societal context.

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