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Laws affecting whenua Māori

There are several pieces of legislation that affect our mahi. We are guided by these to ensure we achieve the best outcomes for Māori.

Some of the main pieces of legislation that we work with are:  

Māori Trustee Act 1953

The Māori Trustee Act 1953 established the Māori Trustee, and identifies the roles and functions of the Māori Trustee.

In 2009, amendments to the Act resulted in the disestablishment of the former Māori Trust Office, which was an office within Māori Affairs and then Te Puni Kōkiri, and ultimately the establishment of Te Tumu Paeroa as a standalone organisation supporting the Māori Trustee.

Since 2009, the Māori Trustee is appointed by the Minister for Māori Development.

Te Ture Whenua Māori Act 1993

Te Ture Whenua Māori Act 1993 sets out the jurisdiction of the Māori Land Court and provides special rules around dealing with Māori freehold land and other types of land held by Māori.

The Act defines Māori land as Māori customary land and Māori freehold land and provides that powers, duties, and discretions conferred by the Act are to be exercised, as far as possible, in a manner that facilitates and promotes the retention, use, development, and control of Māori land as taonga tuku iho by Māori owners, their whānau, their hapū, and their descendants.

Under the Act, the Court must keep an official record of the owners of Māori land. The Act contains rules relating who may succeed to shares in Māori freehold land both in a will and when a will is not made. The Act also contains special rules around the sale and long term lease of Māori freehold land and prohibits the sale of Māori customary land.

The Court also has a significant role in establishing trusts over Māori land, appointing and removing trustees, considering disputes involving trusts and reviewing the administration of trusts that it establishes. It is in these matters that the Māori Trustee has a significant amount to do with the Court.

Te Ture Whenua Māori (Succession, Dispute Resolution, and Related Matters) Amendment Act 2020 recently introduced some amendments to the Act. These include empowering a Registrar of the Māori Land Court to decide simple and uncontested succession and trust applications. It also allows for the use of a mediation service as a means of resolving disputes.

Trusts Act 2019

The Trusts Act 2019 came into effect on 30 January 2021.

Much of the Act updates or restates law that exists already, either in statute or in case law. Among some of the important changes are that the Act sets out the mandatory and default trustee duties making them more accessible, requires trustees to keep core trust documents, requires trustees to disclose basic trust information (as defined in the Act) and sets out a process for beneficiaries of a trust should they like to request additional trust information.

Māori Reserved Land Act 1955

The Māori Trustee administers as statutory trustee land that is reserved land under the Māori Reserved Land Act 1955.

These are lands that were deemed to be reserves prior to the Act coming into force. The Act sets out the terms on which the land can be administered and as reserved land is deemed to have the status of Māori freehold land, many provisions in Te Ture Whenua Māori Act 1993 also apply to this land.

Much of this land is leased under terms set out in the Māori Reserved Land Act 1955.

The Act was amended in 1997 and 1998 to move reserved land leases to more commercial terms and to provide compensation to owners and lessees.

In some cases, a Māori Land Trust has to be established over the reserved land. However, the terms of the lease continue and parts of the Act relating to the lease continue to apply.

Māori Vested Lands Administration Act 1954

The Māori Vested Lands Administration Act 1954 governs how the Māori Trustee manages vested lands.

These are lands which immediately prior to the commencement of the Act were vested in the Māori Trustee subject to the provisions of Part 14 or Part 15 of the Māori Land Act 1931.These lands were set aside under the Native Land Settlement Act 1907 to ensure that those lands remain in Māori ownership while they are being made available to farmers for lease and development.