A woman who was living in Australia retained ancestral Māori land in New Zealand.

The woman became aware that her grand-uncles had started using the land for grazing stock. She was concerned about this, and obtained legal advice confirming her legal rights to exclusive possession of her ancestral land.

This eventually led to her obtaining an injunction from the Māori Land Court, which prevented her grand-uncles from entering onto, and utilising, the land.

Many years later the woman decided to return to New Zealand with her children, to reconnect with her extended whānau, and to live on her ancestral land. 

Unfortunately she had not appreciated the serious damage she had caused to whānau relationships, particularly with her grand-uncles, who were the rangatira (or leaders) of her whānau marae. 

Her actions, while legally correct, were contrary to Māori lore or tikanga (Māori customs and traditional values) and resulted in a loss of mana, and shame, to her grand-uncles.

Her actions also seriously damaged any chance of an ongoing relationship with them and the rest of her extended whānau.

Accordingly, what should have been a wonderful experience and opportunity for her and her children to reconnect with their extended whānau turned into a “nightmare”, and she deeply regretted her earlier decision to enforce her legal rights against her grand-uncles.

In our experience, such occurrences are unfortunately not uncommon. 

In situations such as this, involving Māori legal disputes, it is important that your advisor not only has an understanding of the correct position according to the law, but also an understanding of the implications according to Māori lore or tikanga.

Peter Johnston
Māori Issues Lawyer