The Maori Land Court

The Maori Land Court (Te Kooti Whenua Maori) and the Maori Appellate Court (Te Kooti Pira Maori) are continued under Te Ture Whenua Maori Act 1993. The Maori Land Court has been in existence in one form or another since the passing of the Native Lands Act 1862 and the Maori Appellate Court since the 1890s.

The Maori Land Court has jurisdiction to hear matters relating to Maori land including successions, title improvements, Maori land sales, and the administration of Maori land trusts and Incorporations. It also has jurisdiction to hear cases under the Maori Fisheries Act 2004, the Maori Commercial Aquaculture Claims Settlement Act 2004 and a number of other statutes.

As at September 2009, there was approximately 1.47 million hectares of Maori land (including customary land) which comprises less than five percent of land in New Zealand. While the total area of Maori land is small, the Court and its administration recognises the special bond that Maori people have with this land. Thus the maintenance and preservation of the Court's record (containing as it does invaluable customary information including whakapapa or genealogy) remains a fundamental feature of the work of the Court.

The conduct of a hearing of the Maori Land Court is determined by the judge hearing the case, and he/she may apply any rules of marae kawa as the judge considers appropriate. In practice that means that nearly all Court hearings commence and conclude with a karakia (prayer) and mihi whakatau (greetings). Te Reo Maori (the Maori language) is often used in Court. Many of the cases heard in the Maori Land Court involve complex issues of law and fact. On some occasions they may also involve tikanga or customary concepts. Depending on the nature of the application before the Court, a judge may require expert evidence to be called in such cases.

The Maori Land Court has a Chief Judge and a Deputy Chief Judge as well as resident judges in most Maori Land Court districts.

Ministry of Justice administers the Maori Land Court and Te Puni Kokiri (the Ministry of Māori Development) deals with legislative and regulatory matters.

Key services

The business of the Maori Land Court includes:

  • To administer and apply Te Ture Whenua Maori Act 1993 and other relevant legislation;
  • To maintain the records of title and ownership information of Maori land;
  • To make available Maori land information held by the Maori Land Court;
  • To facilitate Maori land administration and development through the professional delivery of services to Maori land owners, their whanau or hapu.