Members of the Koutu Nui on the last day of their annual general meeting in June this year. 21061727
Those who live overseas should not determine the lives of those who live in the Cook Islands when it comes to land matters, recommends the Koutu Nui.
The Koutu Nui has presented its recommendations on the
review of land laws to the Minister of Justice, and the House of Ariki.
Koutu Nui treasurer and co-secretary, TePa Mataiapo Imogen
Ingram, said: “suggested changes to land court procedures – some of which we
are assured are already being resolved – and recommendations for changes to
land laws, have been requested to the Minister of Justice for a Parliamentary
Select Committee to be established so that a very broad consultation can be
The executive committee of the Koutu Nui, the group
comprising the country's sub-chiefs, made its recommendations from the outcome
of a two-day workshop on land issues held in May that was reviewed, amended and
endorsed on June 17 at its annual general meeting.
In regards to the review of 1915 Cook Islands Act, the
report noted that “the general view is that the 1915 Cook Islands Act has
served us well, but needs to be reviewed”.
“This may result in a constitutional issue for
overseas Cook Islanders, but there is a strong feeling that those who live
overseas should not determine the lives of those who live in the Cook Islands.”
The Koutu Nui have considered that there is a need to
balance this issue against whether an absentee landowner, who is not in the
land court to object to their share of land being taken, misses out.
Another recommendation that was put forward included that
new legislation such as a Land Leases Act which makes clear all the mandatory
requirements for a lease, to be introduced. For example, that all leases be
limited to 60 years and should be valued every five years, together with any
other provisions considered to be standard.
“The proposed Act would spell out the requirements
which protect landowner rights but there should be the option to add additional
clauses at the initiative of the landowners and the lessee.”
Another important law, the Property Law Act 1952, was
amended in 1997 by Parliament to assure landowners receive certain benefits
when they lease family land for commercial purposes, the report stated.
The 1997 amendment is commonly referred to as Section
106A and it provides, in part, for landowners, when granting a commercial
lease, to receive an upfront goodwill payment in cash, a percentage of the
income generated by the lease on their land, and a transfer consideration – “a
piece of the pie, so to speak” – when the business on the land is transferred
to a new owner/operator.
Cook Islands News on September 20, 2016 reported that
“the legislation for Section 106A was so poorly written that for the past 19
years, people and companies with commercial leases have been able to ignore the
law with the result that landowners have been greatly disadvantaged”.
The Koutu Nui proposes a clarification of Section 106A,
stating, “many lessors have tried to avoid compliance with Section 106A of the
Property Law Amendment Act 1997; they allege it is not clear how it will
“The Court also found that Section 106A is not
contrary to the Constitution of the Cook Islands and that the Leases Approval
Tribunal is the suitable place where Section 106A should be enforced.”
Other references noted by Koutu Nui include to restrict
non-resident successions – that non-resident Cook Islanders should be
restricted in their ability to succeed further back than their grandparents; that
there should be more public awareness-raising about the regulations of the
Leases Approval Tribunal; and to establish a parliamentary select committee “to
consider these recommendations, and any other submissions about land issues
that might be put forward”.
Because many of their recommendations will be “considered
controversial”, the Koutu Nui believe “it is appropriate that consultations
should be as wide as possible and that everyone who has an interest in land
which falls under the jurisdiction of the Land Court and who wishes to, will be
able to have their say, whether written or verbal, and whether in Maori or