New laws for matters related to whenua Māori

Laws introduced by Te Ture Whenua Māori (Succession, Dispute Resolution, and Related Matters) Amendment Act 2020 update Te Ture Whenua Māori Act 1993 and include changes to better support the development of housing on whenua, the functioning of the Māori Land Court and other matters related to whenua Māori.

Last updated: Thursday, 30 June 2022 | Rāpare, 30 Pipiri, 2022


Te Ture Whenua Māori Act has been updated in the following areas. The changes come into force on Waitangi Day, 6 February 2021.

Supporting housing on whenua

The Act now better supports the housing aspirations of whānau:

  1. It will be possible for trustees of Māori Reservations to grant leases and occupation licenses for a period of more than 14 years, which will remove a barrier to funding for the development of papakāinga housing.
  2. The Māori Land Court will be able to grant occupation orders to beneficiaries of a whānau trust, which will mean more people who whakapapa to the land will be eligible for an occupation licence. 

Landlocked land

Changes in the Act related to landlocked land include:

  1. When making a decision to grant access to landlocked land, the Māori Land Court will also need to consider:
    • the relationship that the applicant has with the whenua and with any water, site, place or cultural or traditional significance or other taonga associated with the land; and
    • the culture and traditions of the applicant with respect to the whenua.
  2. The Act has also been updated so that appeals about landlocked land are heard by the Māori Appellate Court rather than the High Court. This takes advantage of the Māori Appellate Court’s expertise and reduces the costs associated with appealing a decision related to landlocked land.

Changes for Māori land trusts and incorporations

The changes relating to governance entities include:

  1. Introduction of a more streamlined process for dealing with simple and uncontested trust matters, by allowing them to be dealt with by a Māori Land Court registrar, rather than by court hearing.
  2. A simpler process for establishing a Māori incorporation.
  3. Updated provisions for removing a trustee or a member of the committee of management of a Māori incorporation.
  4. A new requirement for Māori incorporations to record the details of dividends paid to shareholders.

These changes will align Māori land trusts and Māori incorporations with best practice, and provide greater transparency for Māori land owners.

Retention of Māori land

Changes to the Act better protect Māori land by:

  1. Clarifying that Māori customary land and Māori reservations cannot be compulsorily acquired or vested under another statute.
  2. Clarifying that ownership interests in Māori land cannot be taken to pay debts or unpaid fines.
  3. Clarifying the process for the right of first refusal for sale or gift of Māori freehold land.
  4. Removing the requirement that when land is changed from Māori customary land to Māori freehold land the Court must determine the owners’ relative interests in that land.
  5. Removing the provision deeming Māori customary land to be Crown land for the purposes of trespass.
  6. Protecting Māori land from claims under the common law doctrine of adverse possession.
  7. Removing the requirement that a strip of land needs to be set aside for an esplanade reserve when Māori freehold land is partitioned.

Māori Land Court functions

The updates to the Act enable the Māori Land Court to deal with a wider range of matters related to Māori land and for improvements in the way the Māori Land Court functions, including:

  1. The ability to appoint experts in tikanga Māori and whakapapa.
  2. The ability to hold judicial settlement conferences to resolve disputes.
  3. Expanding the remedies available to enforce a decision made by the Court, for example:
    • when whānau apply for an injunction, the Māori Land Court would be able to require a person to remove or reinstate any object or structure, or repair any damage to the land
    • the Māori Land Court would be able to grant equitable relief if it is satisfied that this is necessary to achieve a just outcome of a dispute.

More information

Visit the legislation website to understand more about the new amendments related to dispute resolution. 

Go back to understand the other law changes related to whenua Māori. 

Visit the Māori Land Court website for more about the Court’s processes. 

Frequently asked questions

Read the questions and answers about Māori Land Court function.



Papakāinga housing

Visit the Tupu.NZ website to learn more about developing papakāinga on your whenua



Visit the Tupu.NZ website to learn more about running trusts and governance.