Overview and key terms
The main legislation
Te Ture Whenua Māori Act 1993 and its purpose
Māori land is governed by Te Ture Whenua Māori Act 1993 (the Māori Land Act 1993), which recognises that land is taonga tuku iho (an heirloom) with special significance for Māori.
A key objective of the Act is for Māori land to be retained as taonga tuku iho in the hands of its owners and their whānau, their hapū and their descendants. The Act is also intended to promote Māori land being used, developed and controlled by Māori owners and their whānau, hapū and descendants. To achieve those goals, the Act requires that almost all dealings with Māori land must be examined and approved by the Māori Land Court, including, for example, the selling or gifting of Māori land.
The Act’s focus on retaining Māori land in the hands of its owners and their bloodline is a reversal of the thrust of legislation earlier in the history of Aotearoa, when there was a drive to individualise Māori customary ownership.