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THE MĀORI LAND COURT - TE KOOTI WHENUA MĀORI

The land (te whenua) is and always has been of great importance to Māori.  This is for financial but also spiritual reasons.  The land expresses the mana of individuals the whānau, hapū and iwi.

The Māori Land Court (MLC) is part of the Ministry of Justice.  It plays an important part in the administration of Māori land and assists and advises Māori land owners on the retention, use, development and control of their land.

Most land blocks have multiple owners each holding a specified number of shares.  This is because when an owner dies he or she does not leave their land to just one person but it is usually divided between all descendants of the next generation.  Consequently, over time, a land block has an increasing number of owners and each owner’s share becomes smaller.  This fact is important for genealogists for two reasons.  The greater the number of land owners the more likely you are to find the name of the person you are researching.  When land is inherited on the death of the previous owner it is necessary to correctly identify all those entitled to inherit.  This entails establishing and recording the whakapapa.  These documents (Succession Orders or Partition Orders) are filed in the Māori Land Court Minute Books.

The website www.maorilandonline.govt.nz  provides detailed information about Māori land blocks and their owners and can be valuable in tracing whakapapa.  When you go to the home page you have three search options.

Owner Interest Search.  Here you can enter the name of a possible land owner.  You can enter the English or Māori version of the name, first or second name or both in either order.  Try all name variations of the name.  If the name is on the database it will give you the name of the land blocks in which the person has an interest.  Click on the name of a land block listed and you will find a map.  Next check if there is a Minute Book Reference.  Contact a Māori Land Court office (email and postal addresses are on the website), quote the reference and ask for a copy of the relevant documents.  If these include Succession or Partition Orders they are likely to contain whakapapa details in support of the succession.  Be aware though that claimants could have been somewhat economical with the truth: after all they were doing their best to claim a land inheritance.   Check the information against other sources such as birth, death and marriage records.

It is the whānau’s responsibility to inform the Māori Land Court of the death of an owner so that the new owner(s) can be legally identified and a Succession Order made.  Sometimes the whānau neglects to do this.  If this has occurred in your whānau you can download a booklet from the website (Google Succession to Maori Land and click publications) or request a hard copy from any MLC office. This publication gives a detailed explanation of how to proceed.

Block Search.  If you know the name or number of the block of land you are interested in enter it here.   This will give you the LINZ reference and enable you to zoom in and out of the block map.  Scroll to the end of the page to find a list of all the other owners.  They could well be related to your whānau.

Map Search.  Here you can find a map of the land block and choose to see it as a satellite view.  This shows a pictorial view of the land – vegetation, roads, waterways buildings etc.  This is almost as good as travelling to the land and exploring it for yourself.  Layers can be added to show such information as what crops could be grown there and limitations such as erosion or flooding.

This is a very brief overview of what information is available on the website.  Try out all the links and search options and you may be surprised at what you can find about your whānau and their land both in the past and in the present.

Finally, don’t be deterred if you think your person was not the owner of a great expanse of land.  If he or she only holds a fraction of a share they are most likely to be on the database.  

For further information about researching whakapapa go to www.nzsgmig.com 

Brenda JOYCE.