One of the proposed changes in the current reform of Te Ture Whenua Maori Act 1993 is a new section dealing with Maori reservations.

Maori landowners will still be able to apply to convert their land into a Maori reservation to establish a marae, village site, or wahi tapu, among other purposes.

The Bill renames Maori reservations ‘whenua tapui’. Existing Maori reservations will automatically become whenua tapui, and their governing body will become what the Bill calls an ‘administering body’.

The Bill also makes changes to the process and criteria for landowners to convert their general or Maori land into a whenua tapui. These changes include:

  1. Landowners will have to satisfy the Maori Land Court that their application specifies the name of the administering body for the proposed whenua tapui, the members of the administering body, and that it was agreed to by a majority of landowners who participated in making the decision.
  2. The Court must provide notice of the application, seek submissions on the proposal to establish a new whenua tapui, and consider these submissions before granting the application.
  3. Land which is held under a governance agreement, the Bill’s replacement for Maori incorporation constitutions and trust deeds, will not be able to be set aside or included in a whenua tapui.
  4. When landowners apply to the Court to set up their whenua tapui they will have to appoint at least three board members to their administering body.

Whenua tapui land will still be inalienable, with the exception that the administering body can grant a lease or occupation licence over it for no more than 14 years, to any person.  

Consultation on Te Ture Whenua Maori Bill closed in early August. However, it is likely that further changes will be made to the Bill before it enters Parliament early next year.