The Māori Land Court was recently asked to determine succession rights for Māori land after the death of a man who didn’t have a will, was never married and had no children. The man had received Māori land from his whāngai father and whāngai uncle, who had both also passed away. The whāngai relationships were by no way created through a blood relationship. Who is entitled to the Māori land through succession in this instance?

Under Te Ture Whenua Māori Act, any children of the deceased are entitled to succeed to the Māori land interests. If there are no children, any brothers or sisters of the deceased are usually entitled to succeed to the land. However, this did not apply, the siblings of the deceased did not succeed to the land, because none of the siblings were blood relatives or shared a whāngai relationship with either the whāngai uncle or father.

While whāngai relationships are recognised by the Māori Land Court if certain requirements are fulfilled, the whāngai connection does not extend to the deceased’s blood relatives, as they cannot whakapapa (show a line of descent) to the whāngai uncle or father.  

The Māori Land Court decided that the land interests were to revert back to the whāngai father and uncle’s estates to be distributed to any other beneficiaries under those Wills. In this instance, the Māori land did not pass on to people who had no whakapapa connection to the land.

Peter Johnston
Māori Issues Lawyer