Sustainable landuse – Future-proofing for Maori land trusts

Succession planning is challenging for many farms, but multi-generational dynamics, geographically dispersed whanau, and complex governance structures add extra challenges for Māori whenua trusts.

Otago Peninsula can be a tough place to farm. It’s dry, steep, and sandy, but rich in cultural and natural values. Aging kaumatua are also under pressure to identify successors and ensure the transfer of land management and governance responsibilities.

Looking for alternative land uses, the komiti asked us to develop an asset management and business development plan. Their ideal was to restore natural values and create a place that whānau want to return to and can gain employment.

We identified opportunities for alternative land uses, using findings from our baseline environment assessment, SWOT analysis, and Overseer calculations. Then we assessed them based on their suitability for the whenua, value-adding potential, start-up capital requirement, and most importantly, their alignment with the goals of the Komiti.

Areas could be restored into native forest, dune and wetland habitats – important for the ecological integrity of the whenua and providing biodiversity, habitat and cultural benefits, as well as carbon sequestration and protection against rising sea levels.

We believe a combination of whenua attributes (ecological restoration, natural values, cultural values, diverse land use) would provide the basis for any on-farm tourism or hospitality ventures. 

Using Rural Professional funding from Our Land and Water National Science Challenge, we are developing implementation plans for two trusts, matching their identified land use opportunities with the next generation of kaitiaki.

Their journeys will be shared as case studies, modelling a process for other land trusts.