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Wilson - The role of the Maori Land Court

17 December 2003 Media Statement

The role of the Maori Land Court

The government proposes to amend Te Ture Whenua Maori Act to provide a new statutory framework to deal with foreshore and seabed applications so the Maori Land Court can recognise customary title and associated rights, Associate Courts Minister Margaret Wilson says.

The Maori Land Court will be empowered to issue a new customary title to those with mana and ancestral connection over the foreshore and seabed. Holders of such titles would have enhanced opportunities to participate in the management of coastal marine areas.

A customary title would sit alongside the “people of New Zealand title” and would not in itself affect public access.

To speed the process and reduce costs for Maori, it is proposed that a Statutory Commission be set up to receive applications from the whanau, hapu and iwi who wish to have a customary title.

The Commission (comprising five to seven full-time commissioners) would move around New Zealand holding regional inquiries to establish which whanau, hapu and iwi hold mana where. This will probably take two years.

The Commission will make recommendations to the Maori Land Court, which will publicise them so others can make submissions. If uncontested, the Maori Land Court would issue a title. If there was an objection, the Court would hold a hearing. More than one group could hold title in a particular area.

It is also proposed that iwi, hapu and whanau could apply to the Maori Land Court to have specific customary rights recorded on the title.

The statutory criteria used by the Maori Land Court to decide whether specific rights should be registered will incorporate tikanga Maori and common law customary rights tests. The statutory criteria needs further discussion and research, and officials will report to the government on this in the new year.

The Maori Land Court will need to be resourced to undertake this work. The Ministry of Justice will report on this by the end of February.


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