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This research guide refers to records of the Māori Land Court Te Kooti Whenua Māori.

Find tips about researching whakapapa

See our guide to researching Māori land

In 1865 the New Zealand Parliament passed:

An Act to Amend and Consolidate the Laws relating to Lands in the Colony in which the Māori Proprietary Customs still exist and to provide for the ascertainment of the Titles to such lands and for Regulating the Descent thereof and for other purposes - 30th October, 1865

This was `The Native Lands Act 1865’. It set up the Native (later Māori) Land Court of New Zealand, to be the Court of Record for investigation into Māori land titles and succession. A Judge of the Court was to work with at least two assessors and an interpreter.

Any ‘Native’ could claim, in writing, interest in a specified piece of land, and ask the Court to investigate so that a Crown title might be issued. A claimant was to state the name of the iwi or the names of others who had an interest.

News of the application was to be circulated and the Court could summon witnesses, but not all those concerned were at hearings to register an interest.

Under the 1865 Act, up to ten owners only could be registered on a Certificate of Title, but in 1873 this limit was removed.

For every hearing Māori had to pay fees. If they could not pay, charges were placed against the land. Appeals could be made against decisions, but at further cost.

The Court could not make a decision unless an authorised survey of the land had been presented to the Court. The Court could also hear requests to subdivide land blocks. The cost of the survey was borne by Māori.

Māori Land Court Minute Books

We hold copies of Māori Land Court Minute Books from 1865 to 1975 for the whole country. Most files relating to the Minute Books are still held by the Māori Land Court. They can be contacted using the addresses on their website.

Along with information on land, adoptions and probates, these minute books also include whakapapa given by witnesses and successors in order to prove their entitlement to land. Researchers should be aware that evidence was given with a purpose – to hold onto or acquire land – and that it may not be accurate.

There is overlap between districts. Many Waikato-Maniapoto cases were held in Auckland (Taitokerau), and Tauranga minute books are under Waikato-Maniapoto. Some South Island cases were held in the North Island.

Many copies are held, in microfilm some to after 1975 and reproduction forms. Find them in Collections search.

A few items, notably whakapapa and maps, have been separated from their Minute Books for preservation reasons. Most files relating to the Minute Books are still held by the Māori Land Court.

In 2012 the Maori Land Court Minute Books were inscribed on the UNESCO Memory of the World New Zealand Register.

Online index 1865–1910

For searches before 1910, it is easiest to use the Māori Land Court database via public kiosks in the reading rooms. It would be helpful to know the appropriate Māori Land Court district.

An online index for 1865-1910, created by Auckland University, is available online. The database can be searched by name, land block or by hapū or iwi. If searching by a person’s name, it is important to try every possible name the person may have been known by, and every possible spelling of each name.

There is no detailed indexing of Māori Land Court Minute Books after 1910. You will need to know the area and a close date. Our staff can help you find the most likely Minute Books.

Our spreadsheet/index

A spreadsheet of all the Minute Books we hold has been created: a paper copy is available at the reading room desk in Wellington and our staff can access a digital version. This list gives the dates of each Minute Book, the places of hearings and the format versions; whether original, paper reproduction, microfilm or digital.

Separated items

Some Minute Books originally held items such as maps and whakapapa which are larger than the book itself. These are held separately for preservation reasons and are listed with Minute Books in Collections search.

Minute Book Holdings

Our Wellington archive holds original Minute Books from all seven Māori Land Court districts. Most date from 1865-1962 or -1975. Originals are not available to researchers, but copies are held on microfilm some to after 1975 and as printed reproductions.

Key sequences are local Minute Books (see below), but others include:

  • Alienation

  • Appellate and Consolidation Minute Books

  • Adoption & Assessors’ Books

  • Judges’ Note Books

Succession was often recorded in ordinary Minute Books or in Succession Books. Māori-run Block Committees 1900-1905 in Taitokerau & Tairāwhiti, and District Māori Land Boards from 1905 led by Pākehā both created Minute Books.

A few Minute Books are missing, there was sometimes confusion in the numbering, and not all Minute Books are sequential – two might be in use at the same time. Some sequences overlap, notably Ōtorohanga and Waikato. Judges’ Notebooks often cover a variety of places and regions, complementing a number of Minute Books.

Getting copies of Minute Books

We can provide hard-cover bound copies or loose-leaf unbound copies, depending on your preference. These are printed off-site and delivered to you, usually taking around three weeks. The cost is determined by the number of pages in each Minute Book – some range from 150 pages to 400 pages, so it can vary. Enquiries about this service, costs and delivery, can be made by filling out the Ask an archivist contact form.

Regional Minute Books Holdings

The main regional groups of records are listed below, but not all the ‘extra’ Minute Books, nor some shorter sequences.