Sound familiar?  Unfortunately where multiple owned Māori freehold land is concerned it is becoming too familiar.  The problems are aggravated where owners have left an area without a forwarding address or have died and where successions have not been completed.  As a result many land blocks often become rundown, are not utilised and are a rates burden.

In other situations certain owners will attempt to utilise the land block at the risk of opposition by other owners.

So What Do I Do?

Problems such as this are not insurmountable.  With timely and sensible advice, it is possible to ensure that the land is utilised for the benefit of all the owners.

For instance, it is possible for those owners wishing to develop a Māori land block to set up a trust over the unutilised land.

Under Te Ture Whenua Māori Land Act 1993 the Māori Land Court has the power to create an ahu whenua trust where it is satisfied that the creation of the trust would promote and facilitate the use and administration of the land in the interests of the owners.

In order to do this the Māori Land Court needs to be satisfied that:

  • The owners of the land have had sufficient notice of the application and sufficient opportunity to discuss the application; and
  • There is no good reason for the owners to object to the application having regard to the nature and importance of the matter.

The Māori Land Court will require that notices be sent to all those owners with available addresses or a notice placed in the local newspaper advising that a meeting is to be held to discuss the formation of the trust.  Provided that the meeting is held and there is no merit to any objections, it is possible for the owners present at the meeting to resolve to set up a trust and appoint trustees to administer and develop the land on behalf of all the owners.

The appointed trustees, subject to the terms of the trust are able to develop the land on behalf of all the owners themselves or enter into arrangements to permit others to utilise the land in return for income through means such as a lease or licence.