The permanent record of the Māori Land Court

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What are our records

The permanent record of the Court is a public record and is defined by rule 7.19 of the Māori Land Court Rules 2011 as:

  • minute books, that is, the books or binders containing the hard-copy record of proceedings of the Court
  • files of the Court containing the hard-copy applications and other documents or materials compiled by the Court for each proceeding
  • original orders and recommendations issued by the Court or a Registrar
  • instruments of alienation, statements of account, block order files, other documents or plans (or copies of them) relevant to the Court title record and deposited with or held by the Court
  • any other documents, plans, materials or records that a Judge or Registrar considers necessary to:
    • preserve the Court’s historical record of title and ownership
    • enable the Court to function as a court of record
    • comply with Te Ture Whenua Māori Act 1993
  • any other record of the Court kept in electronic form.

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What records we hold

We have been collecting documents associated with Māori land since 1865. These documents vary depending on many factors, including the:

  • law that was in force at the time the information was collected
  • political environment in which the Court operated
  • record keeping practice of the regional office in which it was collected and is located
  • activities of the then Native Affairs Department or Department of Māori Affairs.

In November 2014 we released a retention and disposal appraisal report about our records which sets out a detailed categorisation of the records we hold.

This appraisal report was produced as part of our responsibilities under the Public Records Act 2005 to properly identify our records as part of wider work to ensure the proper retention and conservation of our record for future generations.

Our records fall into one of 11 categories:

  1. Records older than the year 1921
  2. Adoption records
  3. Records concerning the Court’s management of the affairs of individuals
  4. Records about land use
  5. Court hearing records and legal instruments
  6. Case management records
  7. Records of appeal and review processes
  8. Maintenance of the title record
  9. Registers and indexes
  10. Requests for derivation or other information from the court records
  11. Maps and plans of land.

Find more information about our records in our retention and disposal appraisal report [PDF, 1 MB]

Find out more about the title record of the court

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Individual records that may be accessed by the public

Our physical records maybe accessed at the registry office in which those files are located. These include:

  • Current and historic ownership lists for Māori land
  • Minutes of hearings of the Court and Registrar decisions
  • Current and historic memorial schedule information recording leases, occupations and other land uses
  • Orders of the Court or a Registrar – including:
    • Title orders (creating Māori land)
    • Trust orders (names of trustees and terms of trust)
    • Succession orders (names of successors to an estate)
    • Vesting orders (transfers of shares in Māori land)
    • Status orders (declaring the status of land to be Māori land or General land)
    • Māori reservation recommendations (purpose and beneficiaries of a Māori reservation)
    • Māori Incorporation orders (creating Incorporations and setting objects for the Incorporation)
    • Orders of the Chief Judge
  • Plans of Māori land
  • Title notices affecting Māori land (such as gazette notices, copies of leases and mortgages)
  • Personal files (estate files)
  • Closed application files

Please note there maybe occasions where we cannot provide you with access to our files – this maybe because the physical files are fragile, not held onsite, no longer held by us or are restricted.

Contact us for more assistance

Restricted records that are not accessible by the public

We do have records which are restricted and not accessible. These include:

  • Will files (original wills with probate orders made by the Māori Land Court)
  • Personalty files (original grants of administration made by the Māori Land Court or files which deal with personal property in addition to Māori land)
  • Adoption files (where an adoption was granted by the Māori Land Court)
  • Any document or record that, due to its age and condition, can no longer be safely handled
  • Any document or record that has been suppressed by the Court

Requests to view restricted records must be made directly to the Chief Registrar in Wellington.

Requests to view Adoption files must be accompanied by an order of the Family Court.

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Where our records are located

Our records are usually associated with a particular minute book of the Court, activity, land block or land area within a particular Māori Land Court District.

Physical records relating to land blocks are normally held by the office closest to those land blocks. Free electronic access to our record is also available at any office of the court.

Find out more about our district boundaries

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Our records are not subject to the Official Information Act 

Records of the Māori Land Court are held by us in our judicial capacity as a court and not by the Ministry of Justice in its capacity as a department of the Crown.

The Official Information Act 1982 specifically excludes a court from being subject to requests under that Act.

However, most of our records are open to the public. You should contact any of our offices to access and view our records and, upon payment of the required fee, receive copies of our records.

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Other records (not held by the Māori Land Court)

There are many records associated with Māori land that are no longer held by the Court.

Before 1989, the Māori Land Court was a section within the Department of Māori Affairs. We existed alongside other sections in the Department, such as the trust section (now the Māori Trustee), the welfare section, the title section and the housing section.

The Department of Māori Affairs also managed the District Māori Land Boards which had special powers of development over Māori land.

Each section acted independently of the other, although, in the case of Māori land, there were many overlaps in terms of joint work, projects and outcomes for Māori.

When the Department was disestablished in 1989, the functions of the Māori Land Court, and its record, were transferred to the then Department of Justice (now the Ministry of Justice).

The remaining records generated by the former Department of Māori Affairs were transferred to the the Iwi Transition Authority and are now the responsibility of Te Puni Kōkiri – the Ministry for Māori Development.

Many of the former Department of Māori Affairs records have now been transferred to Archives New Zealand.

Find out more about records associated with the former Department of Māori Affairs by contacting Te Puni Kōkiri (external link)

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