The Māori Land Court is a Court of record.

It is made up of a Chief Judge with Judges appointed for each district.

The Māori Land Court deals with many matters relating to Māori and dealings with their land including the following:

  1. Claims in law or in equity to the ownership or possession of Māori freehold land;
  2. To determine the relative interests of owners at law or in equity of any Māori freehold land;
  3. To hear and determine any claim to recover damages for trespass or other injury to Māori freehold land;
  4. To hear and determine any proceeding founded on contract or on tort where the debt, demand or damage relates to Māori freehold land;
  5. To determine for any proceedings in the Court or for any other purpose whether any specified person is a Māori or the descendent of a Māori;
  6. To determine the status of particular land;
  7. To determine whether or not any land is held in a fiduciary capacity.

The Court also has jurisdiction in respect to the granting of injunctions, successions and the formation of trusts and corporate bodies to administer Māori freehold land or land owned by Māori.

It is apparent from the examples given that the Māori Land Court indeed impacts to a large extent on Māori and the use of their land.

In interpreting the provisions of the Act, the Māori Land Court is required to interpret the provisions in a manner that best furthers the principles set out in the Act.

The principles are:

  1. Land is a taonga tuku iho (or treasure passed down), of special significance to Māori people;
  2. Promotion of and retention of that land in the hands of its owners, their whānau and their hapu and protect wahi tapu (or places of special significance);
  3. To facilitate the occupation, development and utilisation of the land for the benefit of its owners, their whānau and their hapu.
  4. To maintain a Court and to establish mechanisms to assist Māori people to achieve the implementation of its principles.

Accordingly it is important that anyone having an interest in Māori freehold land be aware of the Act and its implications. In particular the Act provides restrictions upon the use and/or dealings with Māori land or interests in Māori land.

Should you have any queries regarding Māori Land Court issues please contact Peter Johnston in the first instance.  He will be able to assist you.