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Indigenous Legal Research

Māori Courts & Cases

For information about researching New Zealand caselaw, see the Cases page of our New Zealand Legal Research Guide.

The are some specialist courts and tribunals that only hear matters affecting Māori. These are:

The Māori Land Court - established in 1865 under the Native Lands Act 1865 as the Native Land Court, this Court's original purpose was to convert customary Māori land into titles which could be acquired, initially by the colonial government and later by individual settlers. The role today, since the passing of Te Ture Whenua Māori Act 1993, is significantly different - it is to promote the retention of Māori land in the hands of its owners, facilitate the occupation, development and use of Māori land, and to ensure that decisions made about Māori land are fair and balanced taking into account the needs of all the owners and their beneficiaries. Those who own or have an interest in Māori land can have their matter heard in this Court. Appeals from this court are heard by the Māori Appellate Court. 

  • Māori Land Court cases from 1948 -present are available on NZLII
  • Māori Appellate Court cases from 1947 -present are available on NZLII


The Waitangi Tribunal - a permanent commission of inquiry established in 1975 to make recommendations on claims brought by Māori relating to actions or omissions of the Crown that potentially breach the promises made in the Treaty of Waitangi. For detailed information about the Tribunal, see the Treaty page of our New Zealand Legal Research Guide. The website of the Tribunal includes:

  •  Reports: the Tribunal's findings and recommendations on claims. The Reports are available in full text from Report 1 in 1978. The database can be searched or browsed.
  • Inquiries: Documents relating to Tribunal inquiries - including statements of claim, briefs of evidence, research reports, directions, and submissions. Completed inquiries can be searched. Current inquiries can be browsed. 

The Office of Treaty Settlements negotiates the settlement of historical Treaty of Waitangi claims, and administers the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act 2011. Settlement documents are publicly available on the Office of Treaty Settlements website.

For more information about Treaty of Waitangi claims and the settlement process, including useful historical information and the status of the Treaty today, see The Red Book: Healing the Past, Building a Future: a Guide to Treaty of Waitangi claims and Negotiations with the Crown  (2015), available on open access on the Office of Treaty Settlements website.


Rangatahi (Te Kooti Rangatahi) and Pasifika Courts are Youth Courts, a division of the District Court. The first marae-based youth court was established in 2008. The objective of these courts is to reduce reoffending by Māori youth and to provide the best possible rehabilitative response.The courts apply the same law and procedure as any other Youth Court, but in a marae or Pasifika community setting. Use of tikanga Maori (language, customs and protocol) is part of the court process, and elders and lay advocates are encouraged to be involved. There are currently14 Rangatahi Courts in New Zealand. For more information, see an excellent article by Judge Heemi Taumaunu, 'Rangatahi Courts of Aotearoa New Zealand – an update' [2014] (November) Māori Law Review

  • A Summary Database provides summaries of all youth Court decisions from 1988 to current.