The Māori Land Court
Overview of the court and its functions
What is the Māori Land Court?
The Māori Land Court (Te Kooti Whenua Māori) has the following key features and functions:
- like the general courts such as the District Court and High Court, the Māori Land Court is a court of record, which means that a permanent record of all its proceedings, decisions and orders is kept, and the court is the custodian of and maintains those records
- the Māori Land Court is unique as a court in that it also has a land registry function, maintaining a register of all Māori land
- the court determines issues to do with the status of Māori land
- the court examines and gives approval, if the relevant criteria are met, to transactions that transfer ownership and other interests in Māori land, including the transfer of a deceased owner’s interests to his or her successors (“succession”), and the selling or gifting of land (“alienation”)
- when it has received an application, the court can establish Māori land trusts and incorporations, or recommend that Te Puni Kōkiri (the Ministry for Māori Development) establish a Māori reservation, to enable the multiple owners of Māori land to make decisions about their land more effectively.
- the court provides the public with access to information concerning Māori land and to the court’s records.
- Māori Land Court staff provide advisory services to the public in the form of assistance, education and general information about Māori land.
Note: You can challenge a decision of the Māori Land Court by appealing to the Māori Appellate Court. The Chief Judge of the Māori Land Court also has a special power to change a Māori Land Court order to fix a mistake or omission. See below, “Challenging decisions of the Māori Land Court”.
The Māori Land Court’s main objective
The Māori Land Court’s two main objectives are for Māori land and General land owned by Māori to be retained in the hands of its owners, and for the owners (or people acting on their behalf) to be able to use, manage and develop the land effectively.
Where does the Māori Land Court have its offices?
The Māori Land Court has seven District Offices:
- Te Taitokerau (Whangārei)
- Tairāwhiti (Gisborne)
- Waikato Maniapoto (Hamilton)
- Waiariki (Rotorua)
- Tākitimu (Hastings)
- Aotea (Whanganui)
- Te Waipounamu (Christchurch).
There are also two Information Offices at:
- Tāmaki Makaurau (Ellerslie, Auckland)
- Te Whanganui-a-Tara (National Office, Wellington).
Note: The difference between a District Office and an Information Office is that the District Offices have an archive room where historic and current paper records are kept and are open for public viewing.