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Whenua Māori governance structures

1. What is a Trust?

Simply, it is a group of trustees or a body nominated by the owners to manage their shares in the land or to deal with the land as a whole. When granted by the Court, the Trust is deemed the legal owner. You can find detailed information about creating a trust or Maori Incorporation on the Māori Land Court website.

How is a Trust set up?

An application can be made to the Maori Land Court by any interested owner. A trustee or member of the community of management of an incorporation can make applications in regard to the setting up of a Putea Trust. Nominations for trustees are not officially appointed until granted by the court.

How many types of Trust are there?

There are five types of trusts:

These are established over shares, in one or more blocks of land. Alternatively, they could be established over the whole of the land. This trust is designed to enable whānau to pool together their shareholdings. A Whānau Trust is established in the name of a common tupuna/ancestor (living or deceased) to the owners of the shares. The assets and income of the trust are then used for the benefit of the descendants of the tupuna/ancestor named in the Court order.

These can be set up for an individual who is unable to manage their own affairs through disability (e.g., a minor, a mentally ill or disabled person, or a person held in an institution or penal institution). Trusts already established for persons under disability through the Maori Affairs Act 1953 will continue under the Te Ture Whenua Maori Act 1993 as if they were Kaitiaki Trusts. This trust can be established for interests in any land and any personal property to which the person, owns, or is entitled to, which will be specified by the Court order.

These may be established to deal with interest in Maori land or shares in a Maori incorporation or General land owned by Maori. (This is defined as at least five owners whom the majority are Maori). These trusts will deal with small land holdings which have become difficult to administer as separate interests or shareholdings whose owners cannot be identified or located. Before applying the Maori Land Court to form a Pūtea Trust, the applicant(s) must attempt to inform the owners of the shares in question, and give those owners sufficient opportunity to consider the matter, or in the case of a fixed minimum share unit such a resolution must be passed at a general meeting of the owners.

These are established over the whole of the land. This trust is similar to the former Section 438/53 trusts. They are available to promote development and assist the use and administration of land in the interests of owners. This type of trust continues individuals' rights to succession. Existing Section 438 trusts are deemed under the Te Ture Whenua Maori Act 1993 as Ahu Whenua Trusts. Download a simple Ahu Whenua trust deed from the Maori Land Court website.

These are established over the whole of the land for the benefit of an iwi or hapū. The assets and income of the trust are held for Maori Community Purposes for the general benefit of the members or descendants of the iwi or hapū. No person can succeed to any interest in a Whenua Tōpū Trust. However, holders of large interests in the land which are to be put into such a trust may apply to the Court to have those interests held for particular people. Income from those interest will then be paid to those specific people and their successors.

Terms and definitions

An occupation order grants people the right to occupy a house site on Māori freehold land and is granted by the Māori Land Court.

Information about applying for an occupation order can be found through the following link:
License to build or occupy on Maori freehold land

A licence to occupy may grant an individual permission to occupy a house site on Māori freehold land.  Agreement is sought directly with the registered owners, the Trustees, or the Incorporation’s Management Committee, and the licence to occupy is registered with the Māori Land Court.

Information about obtaining a licence to occupy can be found through the following link:
Māori Land Court - Licences

The Maori Land Court (MLC) was constituted under Te Ture Whenua Maori Land Act 1993, and has legal authority to hear matters relating to Maori land. The function of MLC is to contribute to the administration of Maori land, the preservation of Maori taonga (treasures), and the promotion of the management of Maori land by its owners by maintaining the records of title and ownership information of Maori land.

The principle areas of its authority are:

  • Appointment of trustees to carry out certain functions for the benefit of the beneficial owners.
  • Succession vesting orders in respect of interests in Maori land.
  • Partition and vesting orders transferring of gifting land or interests in land.
  • Orders creating incorporations of Maori land owners.
  • Powers to call meetings of owners to consider alienation of use of Maori land.
  • Confirmation of alienation of Maori Land.
  • Charging orders in respect of rates owing.
    Appointment of agents for various purposes.

Last updated: 02 Apr 2024 4:26pm