In a recent decision the Māori Land Court has held that a minority owner was within his rights to grant a licence to a commercial third party to place beehives on Māori land without the consent of the remaining co-owners.

In reaching its decision the Court noted that there were only a limited number of beehives, that were confined to a selected area of the land. The Court further noted that the area being used for the beehives equated to the shareholding of the minority owner and that the licence therefore did not seek to bind the other owners or interfere with their rights as co-owners.

As a result, the Court found that the presence of commercial third party’s beehives on the land was not unlawful and the action of trespass brought by the co-owners could not be maintained.

Significantly, the Court was not asked to make a finding as to whether the minority owner was under a duty to account to the co-owners for the income received from the licence.  If it had, it would have been open for the Court to consider whether the income the minority owner received amounted to more than his share in the land.

Although this particular decision involved beehives, the case has significant implications for any business activity undertaken on Māori land that is not being administered by either a Māori land trust or incorporation.

As owners of Māori land, it is important to seek advice about your rights in relation to your land.

Peter Johnston
Māori Issues Lawyer