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Communtity Law Manual | Māori land | Māori reservations

Methods of managing Māori land: Trusts, incorporations and reservations

Māori reservations

Te Ture Whenua Māori Act 1993, Part 17; Māori Reservations Regulations 1994

Any Māori freehold land, General land or Crown land may be set aside as a Māori reservation for the benefit of:

  • the owners
  • the descendants of a tipuna/tupuna (ancestor)
  • the members of a hapū, and/or
  • a group, a community, or the people of Aotearoa.

Reservations are established by order of the court.

The potential for selling or otherwise alienating Māori reservation land is very limited.

Note: Establishing land as a Māori reservation has been used as a way of preventing Māori land being compulsorily acquired by the government under the Public Works Act 1981 for state highway construction. This is because Māori reservation land can’t be sold or otherwise alienated, whether to the government or a private buyer.

Purposes of Māori reservations

Te Ture Whenua Māori Act 1993, s 338

A reservation can be established for any of the following purposes:

  • a village site
  • a marae or meeting place
  • a sports or recreational ground
  • a spring, a well, or a catchment area or other source of water supply
  • a place of cultural, historical or scenic interest
  • a bathing place
  • a building or church site
  • a landing place
  • a fishing ground
  • an urupā (burial ground)
  • a timber reserve
  • a wāhi tapu.

The Act says a reservation can also be for any other “specified purpose”. This might include, for example:

  • a conservation purpose
  • papakāinga
  • kaumātua flats
  • kōhanga reo
  • a pā site
  • a reserve contribution (see in this chapter “Partitioning (subdividing) Māori land”).

    Note: A reservation can be established for a combination of the purposes listed above – for example, for a marae and urupā.

Setting up a Māori reservation

How to set up a Māori reservation

To set aside land as a Māori reservation you must:

  • advertise and hold a hui (meeting) of landowners, and
  • apply to the Māori Land Court for an order that the reservation be established.

    Note: If there’s a mortgage or charge over the land, it must be cleared before the land can be set aside as a Māori reservation.

The landowners’ hui

At the hui, the owners will have to decide:

  • the area to be set aside
  • the purpose of the reservation
  • who will benefit from it, and
  • who to nominate as trustees to administer the reservation.

The hui must be advertised in advance in the local newspaper closest to where the land is located. The advertisement should state the purpose of the meeting and identify the land that’s proposed for the reservation.

Note: A template advertisement is available from the Māori Land Court.

How do I apply to set aside land for a Māori reservation?

You must complete an application form and lodge it at an office of the Māori Land Court (for information about the application process, see “Applying to the Māori Land Court for an order” in this chapter).

Your application will also need to include the following documents:

  • the minutes of the hui and a list of who attended
  • a copy of the notice sent to landowners
  • a copy of the public notice that was advertised and the dates it was advertised, and
  • a plan showing the area to be set aside.

What happens after I’ve lodged the application?

Te Ture Whenua Māori Act 1993, s 338(1)

Once the application and accompanying documents are lodged and accepted, the Māori Land Court will hold a hearing.

The court will determine whether the requirements in the Act have been met and can then make orders establishing the reservation and appointing trustees. The Reservation order sits over the land and does not affect the underlying ownership.

This means that the beneficiaries of the reservation can be a much wider group than just the owners of the land and their descendants. It also means that if it is decided that the reservation status should be cancelled, the land will be returned to the original owners at the time the reservation order was obtained.

Is a Māori reservation liable for rates?

In most cases rates are still payable on Māori reservations (see “Rates and Māori land” later in this chapter).

Trustees of reservations and their role

Appointment of trustees for a Māori reservation

Te Ture Whenua Māori Act 1993, ss 222, 338(7)

The Māori Land Court can appoint trustees to administer the reservation.

The landowners’ hui that was held before the application to the court should discuss who the trustees might be and nominate people for this role.

There must be two trustees, unless the trustee is a body corporate – for example, the Māori Trustee. The court must be satisfied each trustee is a worthy appointee.

Reservations set aside for marae

Māori Reservations Regulations 1994, reg 7

The trustees of a Māori reservation are legally responsible for administering the reservation. When reservations are set up for marae, the trustees sometimes work with a marae committee and, if so, this should be written into the marae charter.

All marae must have a charter. That charter may include:

  • the name of the marae
  • a general description of the marae reservation
  • a list of iwi, hapū or whānau who are the beneficiaries
  • the process for nominating and selecting marae trustees (as opposed to the trustees for the reservation)
  • the responsibilities of the trustees
  • a conflict resolution process
  • recognition of the committees associated with the marae
  • the process for appointing committees to carry out administrative functions, and
  • the procedure for changing, keeping and inspecting the charter.

Activities that require trustees’ approval

Māori Reservations Regulations 1994, regs 9–13

In some cases some activities need to be approved in advance by the reservation’s trustees, including using any building on the reservation, and holding hui, sports events and concerts.

Note: You don’t need to get the trustees’ written approval beforehand for tangihanga.

You’ll need to apply to the trustees in writing for them to approve the activity. Your application should include:

  • your full name and address
  • the proposed activity
  • the area to be used for the proposed activity
  • the proposed date and time for the activity, and how long it will go for
  • the proposed number of people to attend the activity, and
  • how you propose to control the activity.

The trustees will meet to consider your application and may ask you for more information. The trustees don’t have to give reasons for their decision unless they’re ordered to by the court.

The issue of approval for activities can also be dealt with by a marae charter. Some charters give exclusive rights of possession to the office or executive of the marae, with the trustees of the marae reservation only being concerned with issues that touch the land and buildings (such as renovations and earthworks).

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