What is Māori land?

The information in this section has been prepared to help you understand what the term "Māori land" means. Defining Māori land, however, is complex and technical and requires a legal definition.

View the Te Ture Whenua Māori Act 1993

If you are unsure about whether the land you are researching is Māori land or not, contact the appropriate Māori Land Court District or search Maori Land Online to check.

How land became Māori freehold land (from its Māori customary land status)

Māori freehold land came into being in two ways:

  • Firstly, the Crown set aside land for Māori from the Māori customary land that it purchased for the settlement of New Zealand. Specific Māori individuals were granted Crown Grants for joint ownership of such land
  • Secondly, the Māori Land Court investigated ownership of Māori customary land that had not been alienated and appointed (up to) ten Māori individuals into joint ownership. Ownership of the land was confirmed by the Māori Land Court and title was granted by the Crown.

The purpose

The purpose of this activity was that the Crown wished to move from the Māori practice of joint customary ownership to the European practice of individual ownership. The reason for this was to make land ownership more certain (from a settler perspective) and this provided confidence that prospective purchasers were dealing with the legal owners of the land.

The 1.3 million hectares of Māori land that remain today are the remainder of those original Crown Grants that have not been sold to non-Māori ownership or have not been converted to general land by its Māori owners.

Change of Status of Land

Section 129 Te Ture Whenua Māori Act 1993 provides for a number of different types of status of land. From a LINZ point of view, the status of land will only change from Māori freehold land to general land upon registration of an Order of the Māori Land Court.