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Communtity Law Manual | Māori land | Restrictions on selling or otherwise alienating Māori land

Alienation: Selling, gifting and other land transactions

Restrictions on selling or otherwise alienating Māori land

Te Ture Whenua Māori Act 1993, ss 146, 147A, 150

The sale of Māori land is subject to a number of significant restrictions that don’t apply to General land (that is, ordinary privately owned land):

  • If owners of Māori land want to sell their interest in the land, they must first notify and offer it to the people who belong to the “preferred classes of alienees” – that is, members of the whānau and hapū associated with the land.
  • The seller must then get the Māori Land Court’s approval for the sale, usually in the form of a “vesting order” that transfers the ownership in the land.

Those restrictions also apply to other forms of “alienation” of an interest in land, including gifting, leasing and mortgaging the land.

Approval from the Māori Land Court

Instead of a vesting order, the court can also give approval by issuing a confirmation order or certificate if:

  • an “assembled owners” meeting has passed a resolution in favour of the sale or other alienation (see in this chapter, “Methods of managing Māori land: Trusts, incorporations, and reservations / Other forms of decision-making and representation for multiple owners”), or
  • the sale or alienation is made by an “instrument of transfer” (a legal document that, among other things, must be witnessed by, for example, a lawyer, a Justice of the Peace or a notary public).

Who can sell or otherwise alienate Māori freehold land?

Te Ture Whenua Māori Act 1993, ss 147, 150B, 150C

The owners of a block of Māori freehold land can sell, gift, lease or mortgage either the whole or part of that block. This includes:

  • a sole owner
  • the joint tenants of a block, if they’re acting together (for the meaning of “joint tenants”, see “Overview and key terms / Key terms and definitions” in this chapter)
  • the owners in common of the land, if the transaction has the required level of consent, which in the case of a sale or gift is 75 percent of the owners or ownership interests (for “owners in common”, see “Overview and key terms / Key terms and definitions” in this chapter)
  • the trustees of a Māori land trust, if the transaction has the required level of consent, which in the case of a sale or gift is 75 percent of the owners or ownership interests
  • a Māori incorporation, if the transaction has the required level of consent, which in the case of a sale or gift is 75 percent of the shareholders.

Right of first refusal for whānau and hapū associated with the land

In general, the person buying the shares must be a member of the whānau or hapū associated with the land (that is, someone from the preferred classes of alienees: for more details about the “preferred classes of alienees”, see “Key terms and definitions” in this chapter). The Māori Land Court may also approve you selling your shares to someone outside the preferred classes, but you’ll need to show the court you’ve tried to sell the shares to the preferred classes at a fair value and weren’t successful.

Note: It’s important that you discuss any sale with your children. Children and whānau can appear in court and be heard on any application to sell ownership interests in land.

Can I sell the whole block of land?

Te Ture Whenua Māori Act 1993, s 147

Yes. You can sell the whole block of land. As with other sales of Māori land, you’ll need to get the Māori Land Court’s approval.

Note: The process of getting approval from the court can be very complex, so it’s best to contact your nearest Māori Land Court office for information about this.

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