Part 1: Introduction

Māori Land Administration: Client Service Performance of the Māori Land Court Unit and the Māori Trustee.

Purpose of Our Audit

The purpose of our audit was to review how well the Ministry of Justice (the Ministry) – through the Māori Land Court Unit – and the Māori Trustee (the Trustee) – through the Māori Trust Office (MTO)7 – provide land administration services to Māori Land owners. In this regard, we concentrated on the quality of client service to Māori Land owners.

Our audit did not examine or question the exercise of:

  • the Trustee’s fiduciary duties in respect of specific beneficiaries; or
  • the Māori Land Court’s judicial functions.

Our Client Service Expectations

In 1999 we published a report Towards Service Excellence: The Responsiveness of Government Agencies to Their Clients in response to concern that client service issues had received little attention at a government-wide level.

We used the findings of our 1999 report to draw up a list of client service expectations as a basis for our fieldwork for this audit. Particularly, we wanted to know whether the Māori Land Court Unit and the Trustee:

  • have client service as a key goal, with a clear commitment to service in corporate strategy and accountability documents;
  • understand their clients and their clients’ needs;
  • provide access to their services;
  • appropriately resource delivery of the service; and
  • evaluate and report their client service performance.

While this report is directed at the quality of client service provided by the Māori Land Court Unit and the Trustee, it is important to take a holistic view when looking at Māori Land issues and the agencies involved. Concentrating efforts on either the Māori Land Court Unit or the Trustee alone will not necessarily improve the effectiveness of the whole Māori Land sector, as there are many agencies involved with Māori Land issues. Therefore, an understanding is needed of how these different agencies interact with and affect each other.

What We Did

We wanted our audit to provide an independent assessment of the effectiveness of the Māori Land Court Unit and the Trustee’s service delivery to Māori Land owners, and – if need be – to suggest how it could be improved. To do this, we needed to gain an understanding of the roles and functions of the Māori Land Court Unit and the Trustee and of the effectiveness of their operations at a general level, rather than looking at specific transactions and decisions.

We visited and spoke with staff at the Head Office and every operational branch of both the Māori Land Court Unit and the MTO. We attended some Māori Land Court hearings and spoke to Māori Land owners at those hearings. We also spoke to Māori Land Court Judges, and to two external advisers about the organisations and about land management matters. We also reviewed a range of documents provided by both organisations and consulted with the Ministry of Māori Development Te Puni Kōkiri (TPK) on issues relating to the Trustee and to the government review of the Trustee’s role and functions.

Structure of this Report

We have divided the rest of our report into four parts:

7: The MTO is part of the Ministry of Māori Development Te Puni Kōkiri (TPK). Unless specified otherwise, when we refer to the Trustee, we include the MTO.

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