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Appointing and changing trustees

Appointing and changing trustees for your trust are approved through the Māori Land Court. 

Who can be appointed as trustee?

Te Ture Whenua Māori Act 1993 states that the following may be appointed as a responsible trustee, advisory trustee or custodian trustee by the Court:

  • An individual, or
  • A Māori Trust Board constituted under the Māori Trust Boards Act 1955 or any other enactment, or any body corporate constituted by or under any enactment, or
  • A Māori incorporation, or
  • The Māori Trustee, or
  • The Public Trust or
  • A trustee company within the meaning of the Trustee Companies Act 1967.

Every trust must have at least one responsible trustee but there is no requirement for the Court to appoint advisory trustees or a custodian trustee.

Appointing trustees

To be appointed by the Māori Land Court as a trustee you must be broadly acceptable to the owners of the trust. Normally, the Court will require the owners have met to discuss and nominate trustees for a trust or to propose changes to trustees.

The Court must also have regard to the ability, experience, and knowledge of the individual or body. What the Court will consider will be different depending on role that the nominee would have if appointed – a responsible trustee, an advisory trustee or a custodian trustee.

If you are interested in becoming a trustee and want to upskill before you make an application to the Māori Land Court, we recommend completing out the Māori Governance Toolkit, Tū Tiaki.

Changing trustees

Changes to the trustees also need to be approved by the Māori Land Court.

This applies when you want to add more trustees and when you want to replace someone who has passed away or who no longer wants to do the role. The Court must look at the same considerations as for appointing trustees when the trust is established.  Until the Court approves the changes the existing trustees continue in their role.

Removing trustees 

If you are concerned about whether the trustee is carrying out their role and responsibilities satisfactory you can apply to the Māori Land Court to have them removed or apply to the Court for a trust review.

You can contact the Māori Land Court to obtain more information about these processes.