Māori reservations are a very common land holding structure.

A Māori reservation can be established over both Māori freehold and general land under Te Ture Whenua Māori Act 1993.

Typically reservations may be set aside over land that is culturally, spiritually or historically significant to Māori. Common purposes include Papakainga, Marae, urupa, church sites, sports and recreation grounds. Reservations can also be set-aside over fishing grounds, springs, timber reserves, places of scenic interest and wahi tapu.

The main advantages of Māori Reservations are:

  • The requirement to have Annual General Meetings
  • Charters are required for Marae
  • Trustees are required to keep accounts
  • Limitations on alienation
  • Rates may not be payable. The Local Government (Rating) Act 2002 (Schedule 1) provides that land set aside for the purposes of a Marae or meeting place which does not exceed 2ha is non-rateable

The main disadvantages of Māori Reservations are:

  • Trustees are prohibited from delegating their responsibilities
  • Requirement to have an Annual General Meeting. This is particularly difficult where for instance an urupa is hardly used
  • Limitations on alienation
  • Intervention by the Māori Land Court

Suitability of Māori Reservations

Māori reservations are suitable for non-commercial purposes such as marae, meeting places and urupa.

A Māori reservation can be set-up and used for a number of purposes. For instance part of a reservation can be set-aside for a marae, part for a sports ground and part for an urupa.

A major advantage is the ability for marae and meeting places to obtain an exemption from paying rates.

Māori reservations are not suitable for commercial operations.

What Trustees of a Māori Reservation do

The main function of the trustees is to administer the reserve for the beneficiaries named in the Māori Land Court order. The beneficiaries are usually a hapu although it is possible to set a reservation aside for a local community or even the people of New Zealand.

The functions include:

  • Authorising activities on the reservation
  • Issuing permits for activities
  • Calling meetings of interested persons relating to the administration of the reservation
  • Employing advisors
  • Keeping and maintaining proper accounts
  • Recording resolutions of the trustees
  • Signing resolutions. All trustees must sign documents needing to be registered against a certificate of title to land
  • Establishing an investment strategy consistent with the objectives of the trust
  • Ensuring financial returns and tax returns (if required) are completed
  • Considering and recording how income is to be distributed
  • Meeting regularly

Trustees should hold meetings and record their decisions in written minutes. At the least there should be a yearly meeting.

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