New Māori Land Court services and legislation changes

New services and simplified processes are now in place following changes to Te Ture Whenua Māori Act 1993.

Targeted changes to the Act were made by the Government to support Māori land owners to achieve their aspirations for whānau through connection to, use and development of their whenua. These changes came into force on Waitangi Day 2021.

The amendments include practical and technical changes to legislation, so that it works better for landowners. It is the most significant update Te Ture Whenua Māori since it was introduced.

Below we outline the changes to legislation, and the reasons for those changes. We also provide links to downloadable factsheets to help guide landowners, whānau, trusts and incorporations through what is new.

The factsheets and a brochure [PDF, 891 KB] can be downloaded from this website, or drop into a Māori Land Court office to pick them up. If you need help accessing this information, please email WMPSupport@justice.govt.nz.

On this page:

Dispute resolution service

Before

In many cases the only option for owners to resolve disputes over their land was through the Court. This meant issues of a personal and sensitive nature to whānau would be discussed in a public court hearing.

What’s new from 6 February 2021

Parties in a dispute over Māori land can access a free tikanga-based mediation service provided by the Māori Land Court. The confidential service enables parties to come up with their own solutions outside of a court hearing. Māori Land Court judges will act as mediators initially. Using this service can help parties avoid unnecessary litigation and find more sustainable solutions that everyone agrees on.

Find out more: Dispute resolution service factsheet [PDF, 67 KB]

Simple and uncontested succession applications

Before

Previously succession applications were decided by Māori Land Court judges.

What’s new from 6 February 2021

Simple and uncontested succession applications can be decided by a Maori Land Court registrar without a court hearing. The time and costs associated with attending a court hearing are removed when an application is decided by a registrar. This change also supports the efficient running of the Māori Land Court.

Find out more: Simple and uncontested succession applications factsheet [PDF, 58 KB]

Succession with a surviving spouse or partner

Before

Previously a deceased landowner's interest in Māori land could pass to a surviving spouse or partner who did not whakapapa to the land, which meant that descendants who did whakapapa to the land could not succeed to their land interest or shares immediately.

What’s new from 6 February 2021

From 6 February 2021, descendants can apply to succeed to the land interest when a landowner passes. This change helps descendants who whakapapa to the land to connect to their whenua and participate in decisions about their land sooner, while the surviving spouse or partner can still receive income from the land and/or occupy the family home on the land.

Find out more: Succession with a surviving spouse or partner factsheet [PDF, 56 KB]

Succession for whāngai

Before

Succession of whāngai could be complex, particular when Māori land is often owned by members of different whānau with different views on whāngai succession.

What’s new from 6 February 2021

Judges will follow the tikanga of the hapū or iwi associated with the land being succeeded to when deciding whether whāngai can succeed to a land interest. Where the relevant tikanga does not recognise a relationship that entitles whāngai to succeed, a court order may be issued granting whāngai a lifetime right to receive income or grants from the land and/or the right to occupy the family home on the land.

Find out more: Succession for whāngai factsheet [PDF, 64 KB]

Legislative changes affecting trusts

Before

Previously applications on trust matters were decided by Māori Land Court judges.

What’s new from 6 February 2021

Simple and uncontested trust applications can be decided by a Maori Land Court registrar without a court hearing. The time and costs associated with attending a court hearing are removed when an application is decided by a registrar. This change also supports the efficient running of the Māori Land Court.

Other changes affecting trusts include updated provisions for removing a trustee and aligning trust procedures to changes in the Act.  

Find out more: Legislative changes affecting trusts factsheet [PDF, 70 KB]

Legislative changes affecting incorporations

What’s new from 6 February 2021

Changes include making it easier for landowners to establish Māori incorporations, and provisions for removing a member of a committee of management of an incorporation have been updated. There is a new requirement for Māori incorporations to record the details of the dividends paid to shareholders.

Find out more: Legislative changes affecting incorporations factsheet [PDF, 63 KB]

Legislative changes supporting housing initiatives

Before

Lease or occupation license: Whānau are discouraged from building papakāinga housing on marae and other Māori reservations because an occupation license may only be granted by trustees for up to 14 years, with no right of renewal.

Occupation orders: A beneficiary of a whānau trust is not able to apply for an occupation order to use trust land for housing purposes.

What’s new from 6 February 2021

Lease or occupation license: Occupation for education or health purposes, or for papakāinga housing can be granted for more than 14 years. The intention is to make it easier to secure finance for papakāinga housing developments, to support Māori into housing and whanau to return to their whenua.

Occupation orders: The Māori Land Court can grant an occupation order to a beneficiary of a whānau trust. This will enable more people who whakapapa to the land to occupy and build on it.

Find out more: Legislative changes supporting housing initiatives factsheet [PDF, 66 KB]

Maori Land Court jurisdiction extended

Before

The Māori Land Court does not hear certain matters relating to Māori land.

What’s new from 6 February 2021

The Māori Land Court can now make rulings about Māori land under the Family Protection Act 1955, Law Reform (Testamentary Promises) Act 1949, Government Roading Powers Act 1989, Local Government Act 1974 and the Property Law Act 2007.

The Māori Land Court is better placed to assess the cultural implications of how interests in Māori land should be dealt with.

← Back to the news