Occupy or build on your land

Your ability to occupy or build on your land is dependent on three factors:

You can also formalise any occupation arrangement you have already made

Your shareholding

When occupying or building on Māori land, it is important to consider what your entitlement equates to in terms of actual area on the block.

You can calculate this by dividing your shares by the total number of shares in the block and then multiplying it by the total area of the block.

For example:
You are a shareholder in a block that is 10 hectares in size.

There are 200 owners and you have 10 shares out of a total of 100 shares.

Based on the calculation – your 10 shares divided by the 100 shares in the block = 0.1 which when multiplied by 10 hectares gives a result of 1 hectare.

In this example, your entitlement would be an area of 1 hectare.

Your entitlement will vary depending on the number of shares you have and the location of any occupation (as different parts of the block will have a different value in terms of occupation).

In many cases the area is smaller than you expect and you may well need support from the other owners if you wish to occupy or build on the land.
Our Act generally talks about occupation for the purpose of a site for a house. We generally suggest that a house site is around 0.1011 hectares in area, or, ¼ of an acre.

Our role is to mediate between owners – to ensure that a majority shareholder doesn’t occupy or use the best land to their advantage at the expense of smaller shareholders.

Likewise we also look to ensure the small shareholders aren’t being unreasonable in their expectations when it comes to the land.

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Permission from other owners

Māori land is normally held by more than one person usually with different shareholdings.

Often referred to as fragmentation, multiple shareholdings can sometimes cause problems when you’re trying to reach a consensus about land use, but you are unable to contact the other owners.

In principle, you need to at least attempt to discuss your occupation and building plans with other owners (if you aren’t the sole owner).

In practise we appreciate that in many cases it can be difficult to contact other owners, especially if they have left no contact information or are deceased.

When considering your approach you should ask yourself – if my occupation is challenged, can I demonstrate that I have support of the other owners I could find and that I have attempted to contact those I couldn’t?

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Permission from trustees or Māori Incorporation

To overcome multiple owners, and to enable land to be better used, Māori land is often vested in trustees or a Māori Incorporation to manage on behalf of the owners or shareholders.

Once land is vested in trustees, they are then responsible for managing that land in accordance with any trust order set in place or, in the case of a Māori Incorporation, the Māori Incorporation Constitution Regulations.

In general, trustees and the incorporation must manage the land for the benefit of all owners collectively.

You should discuss your occupation or building plans with those trustees or the incorporation so that they can ensure it is in keeping with their responsibilities under the law and the trust order and they can consider your request alongside other activities that maybe happening on the block.

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Formalising your occupation

You may also choose to formalise your occupation by way of a:

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

Read more about these changes [PDF, 66 KB]

Occupation Order

You may seek an occupation order to exclusively occupy a certain part of any Māori land in which you have interests.

Before considering this approach you would need to:

  • Ensure that your shareholding equates to an area that could be occupied on the land
  • Have a sketch plan that shows where your occupation area will be located in relation to the rest of the block and any special access requirements
  • Ensure you have called meetings of the owners and have general support
  • Have confirmation of who you have written to about your proposal
  • Have written agreements from owners showing their general support
  • Have the permission of any trustees or incorporations who manage the land.

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