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Taonga Māori

Building on and occupying Māori land

Occupation orders, leases, and occupation licences

To have the right to occupy Māori land, or General land owned by Māori, you’ll need either:

  • a lease or occupation licence granted by the owners (or by the trustees if the land is under a trust or from the committee of management if there’s an incorporation)
  • an occupation order made by the Māori Land Court.

This section explains these options.

What is a lease or occupation licence?

Te Ture Whenua Māori Act 1993, s 338

Trustees or owners of Māori land can give you a lease or occupation licence so that you can live on the land. This needs to be formalised by the court.

If the lease or licence is for housing, it can be for a long period, and with a right of renewal.

This kind of lease or licence doesn’t give ownership – that stays with the trust. But it makes it easier to get finance for papakāinga developments, to support Māori into housing, and whānau to return to their whenua.

What is an occupation order?

Te Ture Whenua Māori Act 1993, s 328

An occupation order grants people the right to occupy a house site on Māori freehold land, or General land owned by Māori.

How will the Māori Land Court decide whether to grant an occupation order?

Te Ture Whenua Māori Act 1993, s 329

The court must take into account:

  • the opinions of the owners as a whole
  • the effect your proposal would have on the interested parties in the land
  • the best overall use and development of the land.

The court can’t make the order unless it’s satisfied that:

  • the owners have had enough time to consider your application and discuss it, and
  • the owners understand that this order may be passed through succession or that it also may only be for a specified term or until a defined event occurs (for example, the death of the person who’s granted the occupation order).

Partition orders to provide a site for a home

Te Ture Whenua Māori Act 1993, s 296

The Māori Land Court can make a “partition” order (cutting out an owner’s share and establishing a separate title to that area of land) to provide the owner with a site for a home. (For more information, see “Partitions (subdivisions) and other title improvements to Māori land” in this chapter.)

Applying for an occupation order

How do I apply for an occupation order?

For information about the application process, see “Applying to the Māori Land Court for an order” in this chapter.

Things you must do before you apply

You must assess whether your proposal to occupy the land is feasible. To do this you should:

  • be sure you are eligible, as an owner, beneficiary of a whānau trust that is an owner, for instance
  • identify the land you want to occupy
  • get a copy of the title from the Māori Land Court
  • discuss your proposal with your local council to make sure there are no restrictions on the use or occupation of the land
  • prepare a sketch plan (see below), and
  • consult with interested parties about your proposal – this means co-owners and (if applicable in your case), trustees, lessees (people to whom the land may be leased), mortgagees (those holding a mortgage over the land, such as a bank), and people whose consent you’ll need to get access to the land.

Your sketch plan and what it must include

Māori Land Court Rules 2011, rule 13.15

Your sketch plan will need to include:

  • the boundaries and area of the whole block
  • the location of the site relative to the whole block
  • the size of the site
  • the location of the house on the site, and
  • access areas to the site.

Consulting with co-owners and other interested parties

What issues will I need to discuss?

When you consult with the interested parties about your proposal to occupy some of the land, you should discuss:

  • the location of the site within the entire block
  • the size of the site
  • access to and from the site
  • any conditions that may apply to your occupation, and
  • how long you’ll occupy the site for.

After having those discussions it should be clear what issues need to be addressed and you should be able to assess whether it’s likely the court will grant the occupation order.

Note: An occupation order doesn’t entitle you to build on the site. In order to build you’ll also need to meet the local council’s requirements (see the next section).

How do I talk to the owners given there are so many of them?

You’ll need to do this by arranging a hui (meeting) for the owners.

You have to give notice of the hui in person or by mail at least 14 days before the hui. You must also publish a notice of the hui at least once in the newspaper that’s closest to the land in question. It’s sensible to put notices in iwi or hapū newsletters too.

You must give each owner a copy of the application and the sketch plan.

What do the owners need to know?

At the hui you’ll need to inform them about:

The owners will vote on whether to agree or disagree with the proposed occupation order.

You’ll need to use the minutes of the hui to show the court that the necessary consent was given and that the owners understood the relevant issues. The minutes must:

  • show that the owners were made aware that their consent was necessary
  • show that the occupation site and access to the site was discussed and approved
  • show that the owners who consented understood that the occupation order can be passed by succession
  • show that those consenting understood that the order can be for a specified time or until a specific event happens (for example, on your death as the person who was granted the occupation order)
  • include a copy of the attendance list with full names (the writing must be legible), and
  • include a copy of the notice of the hui.

It’s important that the owners have also seen a copy of the sketch plan showing the proposed occupation site.

The Māori Land Court has a suggested consent form available.

Note: If there’s a trust over the land or a Māori incorporation, you’ll need to get the consent of the trustees or of the incorporation’s management committee.

What do I do if some of the owners disagree?

You must provide the court with the names and addresses of the owners who disagree.

What do I do if very few owners attend the meeting?

The court may require you to hold a second meeting. Provided you have advertised the meetings as widely as you can and done your best to ensure owners are informed, the court will take this into account.

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Māori land

Where to go for more support

Community Law


Your local Community Law Centre can provide free initial legal advice and can help you apply to the Māori Land Court.

Ngāi Tahu Māori Law Centre


The Ngāi Tahu Māori Law Centre assists all Ngāi Tahu and all Māori living within the Ngāi Tahu rohe. They practise in Māori land law and in advocacy focused on kaupapa Māori.

Māori Land Court


Find information about the Māori Land Court online.



Download application forms online.

Information booklets


Download or view information booklets online.

National Pānui


View the National Pānui online or subscribe online.

Māori Land Online


Search for Māori land interests online.

Te Tumu Paeroa: Office of the Māori Trustee


Search online for funds owing to beneficial owners.

Inland Revenue Department, Kaitakawaenga Māori service


This service offers one-on-one tax advice; tax training or seminars; tax agencies at resource centres or marae; and school visits. This service will attend hui or come to you and provide other advice about your tax obligations.

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