A recent Māori Land Court decision clarified what obligations Māori Incorporations governed by Te Ture Whenua Māori Act have to protect private personal information they may hold.

The Privacy Act 2020 applies to any New Zealand agency which collects or holds people’s personal information, including the Māori Incorporation in this case. The Act outlines broad principles that promote and protect individual privacy.

In this case a shareholder of the Incorporation wanted to view its share register. The Incorporation refused because they were cautious of their obligations under the Privacy Act.

The Privacy Act has a number of privacy principles which the Incorporation is bound to abide by, such as securely storing the personal information they hold of others, and protecting it from unauthorised disclosure.

However, section 263 of Te Ture Whenua Māori Act has very specific requirements about the share register. It must contain the names and addresses of shareholders, as well as the number of shares held by each. The section also states that the share register must be open to public inspection during office hours. Incorporations may charge a fee to inspect the register.

The Court found that the Incorporation was obliged to make the share register available to the public to view during office hours. This is because section 24 of the Privacy Act provides that the privacy principles regarding disclosure of personal information do not limit other New Zealand legislation which authorises or requires personal information to be made available.

In this situation the specific requirements in Te Ture Whenua Māori Act overrode the broad privacy principles in the Privacy Act.

What does this mean for other Māori incorporations that come under Te Ture Whenua Māori Act?

If your Incorporation is governed by Te Ture Whenua Māori Act, you are obliged by that Act to keep and maintain a share register containing the names of each shareholder, their address (if known), and number of shares they hold. This register needs to be open to public inspection during office hours, and you may charge a fee for inspection.


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