What You Need to Know About Subdividing Maori Land

Māori land is defined in the Te Ture Whenua Māori Act 1993 (TTWMA) as “land that is held by Māori in accordance with tikanga Māori”. The Act was set up to facilitate better access, use and occupation of Maori land by its owners.

Subdivision is usually controlled by the Resource Management Act 1991 and District and City Plans so that anybody wanting to divide land into freehold, cross lease, unit title or company leases for more than 35 years, requires a subdivision consent. But this isn’t always the case for Maori land. Instead, subdivision or partitioning is largely controlled by the TTWMA and administered by the Maori Land Court.

One or more owners of Māori land can separate their shares from the rest and create a separate title. In Māori land law this is called a “partition” or subdivision. Partions are only treated as subdivisions as per the Resource Management Act when the owners are not members of the same hapū.

There are 3 different types of partition overall – hapū partition, combined partition and full partition.

A hapū partition is where all the owners are members of the same hapū. These cases are not subject to the same assessment as a ‘normal’ subdivision being considered by a council, particularly regarding size, shape, area, access, and infrastructure and servicing – unless the Māori Land Court chooses to address these issues. However, if the owners wish to build on the land, consent will be required for this.

Where ownership remains within the same hapū, it is also the Māori Land Court that decides whether reserve contributions will be imposed – though the council is entitled to make a submission to the Māori Land Court if it feels that reserves should be required.

A combined partition is a partition that combines the interests of a group of owners in two or more neighbouring blocks into one, with a new title for the combined area of land.

A full partition is an applications that would involve the transfer of the land outside the hapū. These cases are subject to the normal subdivision provisions of the RMA and require subdivision consent from the district council. Where land ownership will transfer out of the hapū, the council may take esplanade reserves or reserves (subject to confirmation by the Māori Land Court).

Before partitioning is approved, the Māori Land Court needs to be satisfied that either the action is necessary in order for the land to be effectively used, or that it will give effect to a gift from one of the owners to a member of his or her whānau. Also, the area to be partitioned must not restrict access to the rest of the land or take too much of the flat or useable parts of the land.

For those wanting to find out more, most records of Māori land are held at the Māori Land Court, although Land Information New Zealand also holds some. The Māori Land Online database contains some information and can be used to locate individual Māori land blocks on a computer-generated map.

Subdivision can be the first and most important step in developing, intensifying or changing land use. If you need help with, or would like to learn more about Maori land title improvements and partitions, please get in touch with us at The Surveying Company. Our experienced and approachable team offer professional land surveying and subdivision services throughout the Wellington, Wairarapa, Kapiti and Horowhenua regions.

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