In a recent decision, the Māori Land Court considered whether to grant a permanent injunction removing a whānau member (who was also a co-owner) from Māori freehold land, along with all buildings, planting and fences.

The case concerned a small section of land which the whānau member had been living on, in a caravan, since 2015. There were six co-owners of the land.

As a result of ongoing issues among the whānau, several co-owners applied to the Māori Land Court for a permanent injunction removing the whānau member from the land.

The first issue for the Judge to decide in this case was whether a trespass had occurred.

The Judge noted that all the co-owners were equally entitled to occupy, use and enjoy the land. However, some owners had limited access to the land as a result of the whānau member’s occupation.

The Judge was therefore satisfied that the whānau member’s possession of the land excluded the other co-owners from exercising their rights of ownership. The Judge concluded that the whānau member’s occupation of the land amounted to trespass.

Having found that the whānau member’s occupation constituted trespass, the Judge had to decide whether to exercise her discretion and grant the injunction.

In support of the application for an injunction, the Judge noted that the other owners wanted to utilise and develop the land for the benefit of all the co-owners. The Judge noted that this is consistent with the kaupapa of the Te Ture Whenua Māori Act 1993: promoting retention of land in the hands of owners, and the effective use and development of land for the benefit of the owners.

In support of the whānau member, the Judge noted that he had been living on the land for over seven years and had invested time, money and effort into maintaining the land. The Judge further noted that granting the injunction would have a significant impact on the whānau member. However, the Judge found that this could not outweigh the rights of other owners to access, use, and develop the land in a way that would meet the needs of all owners.

The Judge therefore granted the injunction sought. The whānau member was given 120 days to vacate the land and remove his belongings.

If you are concerned about a dispute involving Māori land, it is helpful to speak to a professional experienced in this area to get the best outcome for you and your whānau.


Devon Tesoriero