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New Study Provides Invaluable Guidance On Tikanga And The Law

A new study published by Te Aka Matua o te Ture | the Law Commission will provide invaluable guidance to law makers and others interested in the engagement between tikanga and the law.

The Study Paper He Poutama (NZLC SP24) was originally requested by the Minister of Justice in 2021 and was led by Hon Justice Christian Whata.

It is a rigorously researched resource providing information, principles and practical tools for those interested in the current and future interaction of tikanga Māori and state law.

The Law Commission expects a wide range of views on the study, including favourable and less favourable ones, as the topic continually evolves, President Amokura Kawharu says.

“While tikanga is increasingly being woven into statute and the common law, there’s still misunderstanding about the concept, which has implications for the integrity of both tikanga and the law.

“While much work is still to be done, we are hopeful the paper will provide a sound basis for future interaction between tikanga and state law.”

Hon Justice Christian Whata says the study clearly shows the extent to which tikanga is influencing state law.

“Throughout the project, we have been focused on the deep significance of tikanga to Māori and the importance for both tikanga and state law of improving general understanding of tikanga while proceeding with care. We asked pūkenga (experts) to guide us and have aimed to give an account of tikanga for those engaging with it in a legal context that is both authentic and connected with the law.”

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He Poutama gives those working in the courts and the public sector a principled framework to guide their interactions with tikanga as they develop the common law and write legislation, Justice Whata says.

He Poutama is based on input from experts at the interface of tikanga and legal practice, officials and constitutional and other legal experts, and has been assisted by judicial feedback.

Additional to the Study Paper, three externally commissioned independently authored expert papers are provided as Appendices:

  • In Appendix One, Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi pūkenga Professors Wiremu Doherty, Tā Hirini Moko Mead and Tā Pou Temara describe tikanga.
  • In Appendix Two, Natalie Coates and Horiana Irwin-Easthope of the law firms Kāhui Legal and Whāia Legal collate expert tikanga explanations from a review of more than 800 briefs of evidence from court and Waitangi Tribunal proceedings.
  • In Appendix Three, Associate Professor Nicole Roughan of the University of Auckland Faculty of Law theorises a way of considering the interaction of simultaneously independent and interdependent legal orders.


Te Aka Matua o te Ture | Law Commission is an Independent Crown Entity operating under its own statute, the Law Commission Act 1985. It reports to the Minister responsible for the Law Commission. The Commission's statutory purpose is to "promote the systematic review, reform and development of the law of New Zealand". The Law Commission receives its work programme for reform and development work as references from the responsible Minister under section 7 of the Law Commission Act. Visit for more information.

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