Our history

The Māori Land Court was established in 1865 as the Native Land Court. In 1947 (Under the Māori Purposes Act 1947), the name was changed to the Māori Land Court.

Originally the court was established to translate customary Māori land claims into legal land titles recognisable under English Law.

By 1873 (Native Land Act 1873) fragmentation of Māori land ownership was wide spread and caused a large number of problems with the retention of Māori land. By the time a Royal Commission investigated the situation in 1891, Māori had virtually no land in the South Island and less than 40 percent of the North Island. Few Commission recommendations were implemented largely because they were inconsistent with government policy.

More positive initiatives were created with the Royal Commission on land Confiscations in 1926; the Māori Land Development Schemes in 1929 and major land settlements in 1944.

In 1953, the Māori Affairs Act endeavoured to assist with the use and development of Māori land, allowing some flexibility in land management such as trusts and remained the governing legislation for Māori land for 40 years. Subsequent amendments and modifications in 1967 and 1974 did not make sufficient improvements and work commenced on the drafting of a completely new Act.

In 1993, Te Ture Whenua Māori Act was enacted as the culmination of this work.  The Act expanded the Court’s jurisdiction to allow it to hear cases on all matters related to Māori land. The Act also referred to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.

The Māori Land Court today, through Te Ture Whenua Māori Act 1993, endeavours to promote the retention, use, development, and control of Māori land as taonga tuku iho by Māori owners, their whānau, their hapū, and their descendants.

Māori Land Court meeting at Rotorua (click on photo to enlarge)

Historic Māori Land Court Photo at Rotorua

Māori Land Court meeting at Whanganui (click on photo to enlarge)

Historic Māori Land Court Photo at Whanganui

Onoke Māori Land Court, courthouse (click on photo to enlarge)

Historic Māori Land Court photo at Onoke

Women at Māori Land Court meeting, Tokaanu (click on photo to enlarge)

Historic Māori Land Court photo at Tokaanu

Māori Land Court meeting at Ahipara (click on photo to enlarge)

Historic Māori Land Court Photo at Ahipara