Role of a trustees

To become a trustee of a Māori land trust, or a committee of management member for a Māori incorporation, you must demonstrate that you have the skills and ability to effectively manage the land.

You must demonstrate that as a current or potential trustee you aren’t:

  • insolvent (a bankrupt or a director on a company that is subject to liquidation)
  • subject to a No Asset Procedure administration by the official assignee
  • convicted of a crime involving dishonesty or fraud
  • a minor
  • someone who has been removed from a trust or incorporation by us or any other court for misconduct in the administration of a trust or incorporation
  • by reason of your age or mental or physical disablement are unable to manage you own affairs.

When you seek appointment as a trustee, we ask that you provide a consent form that stipulates that none of the above situations apply to you.

Your key duty is to maximise the assets of a trust and minimise its liabilities – or – to hold onto and grown the value of the existing land or shares without incurring significant costs.

NEW: As of 6 February 2021, changes to Te Ture Whenua Māori Act 1993 are in effect. 

Read about how the changes impact trusts [PDF, 70 KB]

NEW: As of 30 January 2021, the new Trusts Act 2019 is in place.

Find out more about the Trusts Act 2019 impacts on trusts [PDF, 68 KB]

Your duties can be summarised into the following eleven principles:

Find out more about trustees’ duties in our information booklets

Contact us for more assistance 


As a trustee you need to know:

  • what is being administered by the trust (any land or other assets of the trust)
  • the terms of trust (your powers and responsibilities under the trust order)
  • all the issues affecting the trust.

Contact us for copies of the list of lands held by your trust or for your current trust order


You must act lawfully and for a:

  • Māori land trust, you must act in accordance with the powers and responsibilities of the trust order
  • Māori Incorporation, you must act in accordance with the Māori Incorporations Constitution Regulations 1994
  • Māori Reservation, you must act in accordance with the Māori Reservation Regulations 1994.


You must be impartial in your approach and treat all beneficiaries with the same degree of fairness regardless of who they are or the number of shares they have.

Your decisions must be made in the best interests of all the beneficiaries or shareholders.


Any investments you make must be done in accordance with the powers you may have under your trust order or regulations, and need to be well thought out and prudent.

The government does not guarantee any investments you make. You are accountable to your beneficiaries or shareholders for all investment decisions and you should seek independent financial advice before making any large investments.

Diligence & prudence

You are required to act with the same care, diligence, prudence and good judgment expected of business people managing the affairs of others.


You can only delegate your responsibilities if your trust order or regulations allow, or to the extent allowable under the Trustee Act.

You are however able to employ professionals to assist the trust if required.

Act jointly

You must work together with any other trustees appointed for your trust. Whilst you can act by majority, you all share equally in any decisions made by the trust, good or bad.

Act without personal profit

You can’t benefit personally from being a trustee. In some cases a trust order or regulation will allow a trustee to receive reasonable reimbursement for expenses they incur in their role as a trustee – they may also provide that a meeting fee or honoraria be paid.

Any meeting fees or honoraria need to be approved by us so we can ensure that you have the broad support of your beneficiaries or shareholders, and that the business of the trust can afford to make such payments.

Pay the right people

You must ensure that the funds received for the trust are applied for the benefit of the shareholders or beneficiaries of that trust.

Keep good accounts and records

You must keep good financial and administration records for the trust. Shareholders and beneficiaries may access records or any other information about the trust and you must be able to provide information upon request.

Declare conflict of interests

You must declare any real or potential conflicts of interest you may have in your role as a trustee. This includes any discussion or decision being made for the trust that could affect you personally, in which you have an interest or affects any employment or funds you may receive.

You should declare your conflict to the other trustees and not take part in any discussion or decision that could affect your interests.

Regular disclosure or contact with beneficiaries

You must keep your shareholders or beneficiaries regularly informed about the financial position and performance of the trust.

You should also undertake appropriate consultation about major policy issues affecting the trust or of any major undertakings that the trust may be looking to participate in.

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