Searching for Māori Land Records

Getting started

The following are brief notes to enable enquirers to "get started". For more detailed advice please consult the Māori Land Court.

There are three critical pieces of search information that are required to begin a search of Māori land. They are:

  • The owner's name;
  • The block name;
  • The Māori Land Court District in which the land is situated.

Owner's name

The owner's name may appear to be self evident but researchers should be aware of the following. Many Māori in the past were known by aliases. Other Māori names were anglicised. Less frequently, children took the family names of their mother or the first name of their father as a surname.

A common way in the past that the Māori Land Court records might record an owner's name is: John Brown or Hone Brown or Hone Paraone or John Paraone.

Block name

Māori traditionally talk about having "shares in such and such a block". Block is defined in Te Ture Whenua Māori Act 1993 as a whole parcel of land comprised and described in an instrument of title. Block name is the primary identifier for Māori. The Block name will be the original block name (such as the Puketapu block) given by the Crown or the Māori Land Court when land was originally granted.The Block name is the single most used identifier in researching Māori land.

A useful tool to search for Māori Blocks is the Māori Land Information System operated by the Māori Land Court.

Māori Land Court district

It is important to know the Māori Land Court district that the land is situated in. Sometimes blocks in different districts may have the same or similar block names. For example, the block name Puketapu appears both in Taranaki and in Turangi.

Records of current title and ownership are now held in the Māori Land Court's National Index of the Māori Land Information System.

Prior to the establishment of this National Index in 1999, the Māori land records were held in binders (hard back files that hold lose leaf records) and were indexed alphabetically by block name. These binders provide the names of owners and references to the various partitions and/or successions that have taken place in the past.

Additional knowledge required

While block name is the primary identifier of Māori land, there have been (and still are) processes that have changed the original sizes, block names and ownerships that were originally granted to Māori. These processes are shares, partitions, consolidations, and Europeanisation of titles.

If the Māori Land Court tells you that LINZ has a record, you can order a copy of a land record from LINZ. You can also get help with land record research.

Types of records held by LINZ

LINZ holds a variety of land records. Find out about land record types LINZ is resonsible for.

In addition to the above, LINZ holds the following records that may assist you in your research:

Crown purchase deeds

These deeds are the Crown's record of land purchases that it made, including purchases of Māori land. In each case a deed was signed by the owners and the Crown.

Historically, the first Māori land purchase by the Crown was made in Auckland in 1840. The Crown continued thereafter to make purchases through its purchase officers. In the South Island purchases were of very large areas and except for specified Māori reserves the whole of this island was acquired from the Māori owners by the end of the nineteenth century. In the North Island purchases were of small discrete blocks.

The deeds are microfilmed and indexed by Māori block name. Copies of the deeds are available for viewing at LINZ regional offices.

Some North Island purchases have been reproduced in " Māori Deeds of Land Purchases in the North Island of New Zealand" Two volumes by H Hanson Turton 1877. These are commonly called Turton's Deeds.

The South Island purchases have been reproduced in "A Compendium of Official Documents Relative to Native Affairs in the South Island" Two volumes by Alexander Mackay 1873.

Crown grants

Once the Crown obtained its interest in Māori land whether by way of acquisition or raupatu (confiscation), it recorded subsequent sales of the land in Crown Grants. These grants provided the purchaser with documentary evidence of ownership.

Crown Grants are accessed via a nominal (name of grantee) index or regional office indices. As many recipients of Crown Grants were Māori, the indices are a useful tool for historic research.

Crown Grants were first issued under Royal Instructions of 1840 to Governor Hobson and later by legislation. They were granted from 1840 to 1880 although there were some Crown Grants granted as late as the 1890s. Crown Grants were overtaken by the issue of certificates of title and owners of Crown Grants were encouraged to surrender their grants for the more secure certificates of title issued from the 1870s onwards.

Provisional registers

In LINZ there exists many volumes of registers called Provisional Registers which were first established in 1871. When Freehold, Partition or other title orders of the Māori Land Court are first registered with LINZ under the Land Transfer Act, they are embodied in the Provisional Registers (PR).

Each title order is given a volume and folio number which along with the prefix "PR" can be used as a reference to access them. Almost all of these title orders are first generated by the Māori Land Court. Often copies of these are still held in the Māori Land Court where you can access them.

Against any Provisional Registration are entered memorials referring to documents containing information affecting the land or its ownership. These documents will lead researchers to other material and can be accessed through LINZ. Usually, where the land is surveyed and the fees paid, a full Certificate of Title (CT) is issued for the land. The Title will show the prior PR reference on it. The PR will also be noted in a memorial of an new title references arising from it.

Tips on searching for Māori land records

One of the biggest frustrations when searching for records is not knowing whether to contact the Māori Land Court or LINZ first.

TIP:
If the description of the land you are searching contains a Māori Block name as part of the description, then search the Māori Land Court's Māori Land Information System or historic Māori Land Court records first.
TIP:
If the description of the land you are searching does not contain a Māori block name then try the LINZ help desk first.
TIP:
Read the Frequently Asked Questions below.
TIP:
If you have obtained information from the Māori Land Court and have been referred to LINZ, bring the supporting information with you.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

The following is a list of frequently asked questions relating to searching Māori land records and dealing with Māori land. This list is not exhaustive of the types of inquiries we receive. It is a selection of the most common questions asked. The questions and answers are designed to assist you in your research and to explain the processes surrounding the registration of interests against Māori land.

Q: My father has an interest in land "up north somewhere." What can LINZ tell me about this land?

A: Obtain from the Māori Land Court all the information the Court holds relating to that parcel of land, including location, land description and your father's shareholding entitlement. The key identifier will be the name of the person.

You may also search the LINZ record for information relating to title and any interests affecting it. You must go to the LINZ regional office where the land is located. Alternatively you may wish to have a land professional perform this function for you.

You may wish to go to The Māori Land Court or check its on-line Māori Land Information System to identify the land and/or narrow your search. Find a map of land registration districts.

Q: My grandmother has passed away. How do we deal with her interests in Māori land?

A: The Māori Land Court administers all matters relating to succession. For the purposes of Part IV of Te Ture Whenua Māori Act 1993 "administration" also means probate of the will of a deceased person. Once the Court issues a succession order, they may produce the order to LINZ for registration in the Land Title system.

Q: The Māori Land Court advises me that the court orders for partition of land have been lodged with the Land Titles Office for registration. What does that mean?

A: The Registrar of the Māori Land Court can present orders for the purpose of registration in the Land Title system. This is the process by which a Certificate of Title (CT) is issued for land. A Certificate of Title is a formal document that records transactions concerning the specific parcel of land identified by the CT. It records the legal description of the land, all owners, current and historic, any legal documents (mortgages, leases, rights, easements, restrictions etc) registered against the land. CsT also contain a diagram that shows the shape and dimensions of the land. The original CT is held by the department in the relevant LINZ office. A duplicate copy is held by the land owner or appointee (eg solicitor, bank). Hardcopy Certificates of Title will gradually be replaced by electronic titles under LINZ's Landonline system.

You can find out more about Landonline and New Zealand's land title registration system.

Q: My whanau currently owns land classified as "general land". We wish to change the status of our land to "Māori land" - How can we do this?

A: By applying to the Māori Land Court. Only the court can change the status of general land owned by Māori, to Māori land. The order may then be registered with LINZ.

Q: I am researching land on behalf of my hapu. What historical information can I get at the local LINZ office?

A: Māori land plans, other types of plan and field books may hold information relating to wahi tapu and other sites of significance. Old Lands and Survey records sometimes record Māori names for particular places. Land Title Services can refer you to the original Crown Grant and the Deeds registration system, which may shed light on the way the land was utilised including purchase agreements and considerations. You are also able to obtain copies of Māori Land Court orders that have been registered with LINZ. Prior to Te Ture Whenua Māori Act 1993, it was not compulsory for orders to be registered with LINZ and therefore the LINZ record may not be complete. Again, the Māori Land Court holds a full set of records relating to Māori land.

You may wish to visit The Māori Land Court and check the Māori Land Information System to identify the land and/or narrow your search.

Q: What is my share holding in a certain Māori block?

A: Obtain this information from the Māori Land Court.

Q: Where is a Māori block located?

A: Search both the Māori Land Court and Māori Land Information Base using the block name. The Māori Land Information Base can be searched online.

The refreshed LINZ website will be here soon.

You’ll still be able to access the same information, but you’ll notice a change in the design and layout of the site.

Read more about the changes.