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Trusts and Governance

There are different types of trusts. The most common trusts we work with are Ahu Whenua trusts. 

Types of Trusts

Under Te Ture Whenua Māori Act, the Māori Land Court has exclusive jurisdiction to establish the following five types of trusts:

  • Ahu whenua trusts (also known as Māori Land Trusts)
  • Whānau trusts
  • Whenua topu trusts
  • Kaitiaki trusts
  • Pūtea trusts

Ahu whenua trusts

By far the most popular form of trust established by the Court is the Ahu whenua trust.

These trusts are established to promote and facilitate the use and administration of the land in the interests of the persons beneficially entitled to the land. The persons beneficially entitled are the owners of the land and the Court keeps an official record of who they are.

The most common trusts we work with are Ahu whenua trusts. This is because the Māori Trustee has been appointed either the responsible trustee or custodian trustee for the trust, or the responsible trustees of the trust have appointed the Māori Trustee to carry out agency services for the trust.

We also have a lot of experience dealing with whānau trusts and also some kaitiaki trusts.

Whānau trusts

Whānau trusts are established to hold shareholdings in whenua Māori of the whānau for the collective benefit of the whānau, as opposed to the shareholdings being owned by individual members of the whānau.

Once a whānau trust is established, the trust owns the shares and if the shares are in land the Māori Trustee administers, the whānau trust will be treated as an owner of the land.

These trusts have become popular as it keeps the shareholdings in the trust together, and avoids fragmentation of shareholding that occurs if an owner passes away. It also avoids the need for a succession process.

Kaitiaki trust

The Māori Trustee has also been appointed from time to time a kaitiaki trust for a person acting under a disability to manage their interests in Māori land or General land, or any shares in a Māori incorporation, or any personal property.

Find out what role the Māori Trustee can have in your trust here.

Are you are thinking about a trust for your whenua?

Māori Land Trusts are very popular. These trusts are established to promote and facilitate the use and administration of the land in the interests of the persons beneficially entitled to the land.

If you and the other owners agree to put the whenua into a trust, this will need to go through a formal process with the Māori Land Court.

Where a trust is established, the governance and management responsibility of the trust assets is with the responsible trustees. Trustees will need to be nominated and approved by the Court as part of this process.

The responsible trustees are responsible for:

  • Carrying out the terms of the trust
  • The proper administration and management of the business of the trust
  • The preservation of the assets of the trust
  • The collection and distribution of the income of the trust

There are different types of trustees such as advisory trustees and custodian trustees. Find out more about them here.

Trust Order

When establishing a trust the Māori Land Court sets out the terms of trust in an order of the Court, which is commonly referred to as the trust order. The Court generally uses a standard form order, so owners interested in setting up a trust should ask the Court for a copy and consider whether they are happy with the terms of it or would like to see any changes.

The trust order is the primary reference for the responsible trustees of the trust as it sets out important information and expectations including:

  • The name of the trust
  • What the trust is for (its objects or purpose)
  • The powers of the responsible trustee
  • When owner meetings should occur and how meetings are to be conducted
  • The frequency of trust reviews 

Reviewing a Trust

Our administration of a trust is generally required to be reviewed periodically by the Māori Land Court.

We meet or report to owners prior to this and prepare a separate report for the Court on the administration of the trust. We also attend a Court hearing to answer any questions the Court has regarding our report or other matters relating to the trust or the whenua.

A date for hearing will be set down by the Māori Land Court. This date will published on the Māori Land Court website monthly.

Once the hearing date is set, we will contact you and other owners to let you know when and where the hearing will be.