Whenua and Māori Land
Many different aspects of Māori land can be researched in our holdings; although the search can be complicated. Land records and other relevant material are often held regionally, so researchers may need to work across more than one of our archives, for example Wellington and Auckland. Records are held within specific record groups, usually Series groups that can contain hundreds of different records. To narrow a search:
Go to Archway
Click on Advanced Search, then click on the Series box
Type the ‘Series’ number in the Code field. This can be in the form of COM20 or 19532.
Click on ‘search’
Click on View all records belonging to this
You may look at the entire list, or you may choose to click the refine search button and type in the name of a block or region of your interest. You may need to try several different search terms
Different government agencies have interests in land and over time the various land responsibilities of agencies have changed, as has legislation. Land research also comes with its own group of terms. A glossary – at the bottom of this page – has been developed as a quick reference tool.
Macrons and Te Reo Māori
Macrons to indicate the Māori long vowel are marked on Māori words and terms and names, in the body of the text only. Macrons are not used for record titles as they were generally not used when the records were created.
Types of Māori Land
From 1900, conversion from customary ownership to freehold was the duty of the Māori Land Boards. However, the Māori Land court continued to deal with Partition Orders. In summary, there were three types of Māori land:
Customary (whenua papatipu): land held according to traditional customs. Prior to 1840, all land was Customary.
Land with a customary Māori Land Court title. Titles created by the Native/Māori Land Court in the 1860s and onwards. The Court only allowed 10 names to be on the titles.
Freehold Māori land. If iwi or hapū wanted to change the status of their land from Customary to Freehold so that it could be on-sold, they needed to apply to the Māori Land court for freehold status.
Between 1862 and 1873 land that had over 20 owners had a ‘Certificate of Title’ in the form of a land grant signed by the Governor. After 1873 these were called’ Memorial of Ownership’ but reverted back to ‘Certificate of Title’ in 1880. Further changes were made through legislation.
The Deeds System Records
The Deeds Registration System documented changes of ownership and boundaries for pieces of land from the 1840s onwards. Each Land District administered freehold land within their respective areas. Māori Land is not covered by the Deeds System and neither is land held by the Crown. For information about Crown or freehold land see our Land research guide.
Searching for Māori Land Blocks
Information about many Māori land blocks can be found on Archway by using the block name as a keyword. For example, a search using ‘Hautu block’, ‘Hautu no. 3*’ and ‘Hautu 3F5B’ will all bring up results for some records relating to Hautu 3F5B.
Indexes to Native Plans
This series records plans of Māori land by block name. The plans had been drawn by government surveyors, for the Native Land Court [ABWN and BAAZ 4713]
Unregistered Papers Relating to Maori Land, c. 1870-1958
Assorted records relating to specific Māori Land Blocks, including correspondence, records of inquiries, payments, and agreements [ABWN 8925]
Registers of Māori (Native) Land Blocks [ABWN 8915 W5278/86]
Moerangi Block (Kāwhia) – lists of owners 1911 [ABWN 8925 W5278/80]
Wellington Māori Block Index, c. 1950
The Māori Block Index is arranged alphabetical by block. For each Māori Block, the relevant Māori Land Plan (ML) number is given and a plan number for each partition of it [AFIH 22375 W5687/148-149]
Hawkes Bay Land District Māori Block Registers, c.1975 - c.1993 [AFIH 22446 W5694/49-57]
These binders record details of the partition of Māori blocks and are drawn from a variety of sources including Māori Land Court Minute Books and the New Zealand Gazette. Partition Orders and plans are often included.
Hawkes Bay Land District Māori Block Register, c.1932-c.1960 [AFIH 22463 W5694/92]
This volume records Māori Blocks in alphabetical order. Unlike the Māori Block Registers [AFIH 22446], this volume records plan numbers relevant to each block.
Lists of Owners and Payments: Māori Land Blocks sold to the Crown, c.1890-1899 [AAMK 999]
If you do not know the block name but know where the piece of land is, a ‘map search’ on the ‘Māori Land Online’ website can help to identify the relevant block. Another useful website is Māori Maps:
Maps and Plans
Department of Lands and Survey
Statutory Branch Map Register
Many registers are arranged by provincial district and are further divided into district, town and reserve. There is also series of general and gazetted maps. Unfortunately, some of the maps referred to in the registers no longer exist. [AAFV 6001/1a]
For more information about land maps and plans, please see Searching land records.
Surveyor Field Booksc.1840 – 1944
These are the original field record of survey work for all crown requirements and legalisation plans and record all data for the drawing of survey plans. Some of the older Field Books have Settlers' names, English and Māori place names, buildings and other structures shown on them. They include topographical detail and other general information required for the determination of boundaries and accurate delineation of the survey. Some include daily diary entries as well. Various series covering the entire country.
Auckland Green Series (earliest set): [BAPP 24485]
Auckland land District: [BAPP 24484]
South Auckland/Hamilton District: [ABWN 1180]
Gisborne District: [ABWN 24487]
Taranaki District: [ABWN 24473]
Wellington District: [ABWN 24474]
Nelson District: [CAYN 26020]
Marlborough District: [CAYN 26024]
Amuri District (Hurunui, North Canterbury): [CAYN 26028]
Canterbury District: [CAYN 26023]
Timaru District: [CAYN 26030]
Westland District: [CAYN 26026]
Otago District: [ABWN 24967]
Southland Land District: [ABWN 24970]
These large format plans, created by Lands & Survey, draw upon several major plan sequences including Deposited Plans (DP) Māori Land Plans (ML) and Survey Office Plans (SO). Roll Plans often include references to these plans and may note early Crown Grants, subdivisions, and applications for Crown Land. Many Roll Plans show various sections within the area depicted. This is a way to find the section number for a property if the location of a property is known, but not the legal description (appellation).
Roll Plans are listed on Archway and may be found through the name of an area or by SO plan number searches. Additional information may be found in:
Wellington Roll Plan Indexes [AFIH 22888 W5687/280-282]
Wellington Roll Plan Register [AFIH 22486 W5687/170]
Hawkes Bay Roll Plan Index [AFIH 22459 W5694/86-87]
South Auckland Land District - Māori Roll Plans - A, B and C series 1867 – 1990 [BAPP 24788]
South Auckland Land District - Roll plans - Green series - 1859 - 1976 [BAPP 24804]
South Auckland Land District Roll plans - Red series 1864 – 1933 [BAPP 24805]
Hawkes Bay Land District [AFIH 22493 W5693/1-37]
Taranaki Land District [BAPP 23827 1-86]
Wellington Land District [AFIH 22381 W5692/1-124]
Marlborough Land District Roll Plans 1843 – c.1973 [CAYN 23143]
Nelson Land District Roll Plans 1841 – 1995 [CAYN 23144]
Canterbury Land District Roll Plans including Black, Green, and Red Maps 1847 – 1958 [CAYN 23142]
Westland Land District Roll Plans c.1860 – 1906 [CAYN 23145]
- Plans on Aperture Cards
SO Plans Cross reference
The earliest Wellington Survey Office plans were stored in Drawers and numbered sequentially with references such as’1/23’ equating to Drawer 1 plan number 23. Such references are found on older Deposited Plans or Maori Land plans.
These old plans were later given a Survey Office (SO) Plan Number – a straight numerical sequence. This book allows cross referencing of old Survey plans which have been renumbered.
Crown Grant/Māori Crown Grant Indexes
Land originally owned by the Crown granted to private owners before the title system came about. Crown grants continue to exist till this day for large pieces of land. Any subdivisions of land from a Crown grant will be issued a Certificate of Title.
Crown Grants of land (1840 onwards) are recorded. The crown Grant Indexes are available online, including Indexes to Māori Crown Grants.
Crown Grant Alphabetical Registers 1842 – 1919 (whole country) [Series 8092]
Crown Grant Sectional Indexes 1856 – 1899 (whole country) [Series 8096]
Auckland Land District Crown Grant Indexes 1849 – 1959 [Series 24509]
Wellington Land District Crown Grants 1852 – 1914 [Series 22362]
Wellington Land District Crown Grants Nominal Register c.1852 – 1880 [Series 22365]
Wellington Land District Index to Māori Crown Grants 1866 – 1886 [Series 22366]
Hawkes Bay Land District Crown Grant Index [Series 22441]
Nelson Land District Crown Grant Index 1866 – 1915 [Series 24640]
Westland Land District Misc Indexes: [Series 23578]
This guide often refers to “Special Files”. These are Native Department records pre-1891 that survived the Parliament Buildings fire of 11 December 1907. All other Native Department records from that time (1864-1890) were destroyed.
Many “special files” relate to land alienation (1877-1887), and others included miscellaneous bundles of files relative to land disputes. It is not known why they were not destroyed but it is probable that they were in use at the time of the fire and may have been held in a different place from the older and less used papers that were destroyed.
These surviving papers were all kept together as "special files", arranged in alphabetical order and numbered consecutively from 1 to 112. Subsequently, the Native/Māori Department added to this series in two ways. First, it followed a policy of removing certain files or bundles of files relating to particular topics from the main filing system placing them among the "special files". These files were numbered from 113 to 154. Second, papers relating to housekeeping and general administrative matters were added to the series, with numbers from 155 to 221. These files date largely from 1906 onwards.
The most important special files related to transactions over blocks of land, Native reserves, important tribal personalities, gatherings of Māori chiefs, and papers produced for and created by Royal Commissions on Māori matters. Most were registered in the Native Department, but some originated from the Native Land Purchase Office, the Māori Lands Administration, the Native Minister's Office, or from the various Commissions. The numbering of these files was in some cases rather haphazard, and may be inaccurate.
A list of “special files” and their topics, a finding aid, is on Archway. Follow this link and then click on “More information and Index”
Recording Māori Land Loss
Over time numerous events and processes have led to a decrease in Māori ownership and control of land, including various pieces of legislation, Acts of Parliament and periods of land transfer.
Not all the causes or cases of land loss are listed below, instead the research guide focusses on groups of records that are often of use to researchers.
For more in-depth explanations it’s recommended that researchers read one of the many volumes written about Māori land loss.
Land confiscated under the New Zealand Settlements Act of 1863 was mostly administered by provincial governments. An exception is that in Patea, which was administered by the Central Government. The Confiscated Lands Department maintained general supervision of confiscated land administration until it was disestablished in 1876.
The archives of the Crown Law Office also contain material concerning cases which involved Māori land. Useful records include:
Confiscated Lands Department Inward correspondence:
Inwards Correspondence Files, 1870-1873 [ABWN 7608]
Inwards Correspondence Files, 1871-1877 [AFLK 18517]
Royal Commissions – see below.
Māori Petitions Concerning Confiscated Land Claims, 1936 [ADOI 17063]
Native petitions up to 1891 [ACHK 16604 G49/17/31]
Commissions of Inquiry
Papers relating to Royal Commissions 1873-1891
This series contains records related to four different Royal Commissions of Enquiry. Some items in this series are 'special files'.
Papers related to four Royal Commissions of Enquiry [ACIH 16044]
Papers relative to the Commission of Inquiry into charges against J Rogan, Judge Native Land Court, and JA Wilson, Land Purchase Officer, 1876 [ACIH 16044 MA11 1/1]
For more information see also papers of Resident Magistrate, Wanganui MA-Wanganui
Papers relating to the Royal Commission upon certain Native claims to land, etc, Poverty Bay, 1873-1882
The Commissioner was instructed to inquire into seven claims by Māori to land in the Patutahi, Mahunga and Waimata Blocks and payments of money.
Special file No. 131, 1873-1882 [ACIH 16044 MA11 2/2]
Papers relative to the Commission on the removal of restrictions on the sale of Native lands, 1883-1891
Special file No. 9, 1883-1891 [ACIH 16044 MA11 2/3]
Commission appointed under the "Native Land Courts Acts Amendment Act 1889"
The Commissioners were instructed to inquire into all the circumstances attending the alleged alienation of land by Māori.
Special file No. 8, 1890-1891 [ACIH 16044 MA11 3/4]
Royal Commission, 1928
Royal Commission to Inquire into Confiscation of Native Lands and Other Grievances Alleged by Natives, 1928
The records in this series were those created by the Crown Law Office in relation to an inquiry into the confiscation of Māori land. Subject matter of the files includes notes on various hearings, correspondence, memoranda and petitions. [ADOI 17041 CL188]
Royal Commission on Claims in respect of the Wanganui River c.1950
The Commission found that loss had been suffered under the Coal Mines Act and suggested that suitably qualified persons be appointed to assess fair compensation. The question of ownership was to be brought before the Māori Lands Court but if this were not possible appropriate legislation was to be considered.
Special file no. 242 [ACIH 16105]
See also the Appendices to the Journals of the House of Representatives, 1950, G-2. Editions up to 1950 can be viewed online at PapersPast.
Commission of Inquiry into Māori Reserved Land 1973
A Commission of Inquiry was appointed on 20 December 1973 to inquire into and report upon the administration of land beneficially owned by Māori and vested in the Māori Trustee as reserved land under the Māori Reserved Land Act 1955 [ADQU 19532]
Royal Commission on the Mohaka Block, 1950-1951
This is one of many Commissions of Enquiry set up to investigate various aspects of Māori affairs. Contains records of a Royal Commission regarding the Mohaka Block, Special file number 246 [ACIH 16106]
See also the Appendices to the Journals of the House of Representatives, 1951, G-4. Editions up to 1950 can be viewed online at PapersPast.
Land Alienation Files
Alienation is when landowners grant certain rights over their land to another person. For example:
selling land gives the new owner the ownership rights
leasing land gives the lessee a limited right to occupy land in return for payment of rent and other conditions
mortgaging land gives the mortgagee the right to sell the land if the mortgage is not repaid
How the land is alienated depends on the number of owners of the land. If fewer than 10 owners, the owners can deal with it in any way, except gift or sale without the involvement of the Māori Land Court. If more than 10 owners the 'meeting of owners' system must be used for any alienations, including a lease. This system required the Court to call a meeting of owners of which a minimum of three owners must be present. Resolutions passed at meetings were confirmed by the Court to ensure a fair price or sufficient rent was paid.
- Auckland and Te Tai Tokerau
Orders-in-Council - removal of restrictions on the alienation of Maori land [Taranaki Land District], 1892-1909 [BAPP 23622]
Waikato, Ngāti Maniapoto and Ngāti Tuwharetoa
Waikato annual number land alienation files, 1903-1960 [BACS 15353]
Waikato Register Of Alienation Of Land By Lease Or Sale, 1903-1910 [BACS 10206]
Waikato register of alienation of land by lease or sale, 1903-1910 [BACS 10205]
Waikato-Maniapoto Single Number Land Alienation Files, 1903-1972 [BACS 15355]
Index to Registers of Application for Confirmation of Alienation of Land by lease or sale - Waikato-Maniapoto District [BBOP 10227]
Maniapoto-Tuwharetoa Annual Number Land Alienation Files [BACS 15355]
Maniapoto Tuwharetoa Registers of Application for Confirmation of Alienation of Land By Lease Or Sale [BACS 10206]
Gisborne alienation files, 1913-1961 [BAJL 11194]
- Christchurch and South Island
Provisional Title Registers
These may be loose-leaf or bound volumes. The loose-leaf Volumes 1-13 are at Recall Wellington (contact LINZ). The Bound Volumes 14-24 are at our Wellington archive. [AFIH 22488 W5687/172-182]
Provisional Titles recorded land alienation from the Crown during the period between authorisation of the disposal and the issue of a Crown Grant or Warrant.
Certificates signed by the Commissioner of Crown Lands were placed in the ‘Provisional Register’ folder at the Land Registry. When the relevant Crown Grant or Warrant was registered a certificate of title was issued, all memorials on the Provisional Title were recorded on the Land Transfer Title, and the Provisional Title was cancelled.
References to these Registers can be found in:
Certificates of Title
Crown Land Register cards
LINZ Card Indexes - LINZ Hamilton
The original record of land alienation by the Crown. The books are organised alphabetically by district and record the acquisition of land and its subsequent disposal.
Allotment books refer to a variety of further records including the Crown Lands Register, Lands & Survey Crown Grants. [AFIH 22359 W5687/18-56]
Provisional Title Registers and New Zealand Gazette notices. Allotment books also record the issue of a Certificate of Title, especially if the Crown leased the land. Two groups of Allotment Books are held, from the Wellington archive of Lands & Survey: [AAMI 6292/1-11] [(ADXS 19507) LS-W 18/1-18]
Though the entries are arranged by district, the books seem to be in no set order either chronologically or geographically. The amount of information in each book varies. Reserves – recreation, railways and education – are recorded, and allotments for forestry, dairy co-operatives and local bodies.
For more information about land maps and plans, please see our Land research guide.
Lands and Survey Department
Records of the Lands and Survey Department and its successor, Land Information New Zealand, contain Crown Grants, Warrants, and 116 Certificates, the legal instruments used by the Crown to vest land ownership in private hands.
Warrants superseded Crown Grants as the most common instrument in 1880 and were in turn superseded by 116 Certificates in 1952. Each of these was authorised by different legislation, however all three continue to be used today. Māori Certificates of Title were issued by the Māori Land Court and implemented by the Land and Survey Department. Records include:
Certificates of Title and Memorials of Ownership for Māori (pre-1900) [ABWN 8910]
New Zealand Company Deeds of Purchase [ABWN 8111]
Māori Land Grants and Orders (1880 and 1882 Acts) [ABWN 8913 W5278]
Māori Land Court Orders (1886) [ABWN 8913 W5278/40-43]
Orders under the Native Land Court Act 1886 [ABWN 8914 W5278/45-46 & 91 & 85]
Register of Māori Titles issued under various Acts, Middle Island 1886 [ABWN 8923 W5278/85]
Native Land Court Register to Deeds of Sale, Southern District 1874-1897 [ABWN 8929 W5278/93]
Deeds of Conveyance (Auckland) 1858-1864 [ABWN 8930 W5278/94-95]
Plans of purchases of Native rights, Wairarapa 1880 [ABWN 8931 W5278/96]
The collection also contains a large number of deeds, including Deeds of Sale and Deeds of Gift from Māori, as well as Crown Purchase Deeds.
Land for Railways
These records Lands taken and purchased for railway purposes.
Other records relating to land administration of the New Zealand Railways Department are still held at Land Information New Zealand (LINZ). Please contact LINZ directly to arrange access.
Lands Acquired for Railway Purposes
Lands Acquired for Railway Purposes [ABWN 8115]
Lands Taken for Railway Purposes
Created by the Public Works Department, these registers provide details of land taken under legislation for Railways purposes.
Proclamation Registers [Of Lands Taken for Railway Purposes][ABWN 8117 W5280]
Except for volume 2, each volume contains an index at the front which is arranged alphabetically by name of the owner. An index to volume 2 was created in a separate volume and numbered 2A. It has been included in the list for this series. The pages of each volume are headed "Line of Railway from ____ to ____. The entries are listed under each line provide details of:
¨Public Works - Record number; Schedule number; Date of Schedule; Folio in Classified Expenditure.
¨Name of Owner or Occupier of Land or Property.
¨Description of Land or Property
¨Rate per acre
¨Area [acres, roods, and perches]
¨Compensation - Sum claimed by owner; Sum accepted.
¨Deeds - Date of Deed; Date of deposit in Crown Lands Office.
¨Freehold or Leasehold.
Māori Land Court Compensation Orders
Maori Land Court Compensation Orders for Land Taken for Road and Railway Purposes, c. 1924
Each order covers land blocks in the Māori Land Court District of Tairawhiti. The orders contain references to the relevant Māori Land Court Minute Book pages (Wairoa Minute Book No.35). [ADOM 19222]
Land for Roading
This series comprises an account book for payments for road works made under the Lands for Settlement Act. [ACGT 18459]
Auckland Land District - Plan Index to Maori Consolidations, Roads and Miscellaneous Tracings, c.1930 - c.1950
The volume in this series provides an index by block name and number to survey plans relating to Crown actions on Māori lands, including consolidation, roads, tenure investigations, Crown purchase, use of Crown lands to satisfy native claims, confiscations, the recording of reserves, and other miscellaneous actions. [ABWN 27123]
Register of Road Warrants, South Auckland Land District 1891-1904
The volume in this series contains notes and photocopies of correspondence relating to the taking of land for the laying off of roads in the South Auckland land district. It relates chiefly to Māori land, but some Crown land is also included where the land has been leased, and there are a few Warrants relating to land in general ownership [BAPP 24531]
Road Warrant Plans - Maori Land - South Auckland Land District, 1880-1898
The plans in this series are tracings of survey plans showing Māori land taken under Governors warrants for roads in the South Auckland Land District. [ABWN 27165]
Gisborne Road Warrants Authorising Taking And Laying Off Of Roads, 1881-1908 [AFIH 23379]
Each warrant includes a schedule of affected land, giving the legal description of the land, either Native Land Block name and number or Section and Block number, as well as area of land in acres, name of the Survey District, and information on the nature and date of title, such as Native Land Court order and date, or type of tenure and date of lease. At times the Crown Grant number is also given in the schedule.
The index at the front of the first binder is in alphabetical order by name of Māori Land block. The index at the end of the second binder is in alphabetical order by name of Survey District.
Maori Land Court Compensation Orders for Land Taken for Road and Railway Purposes, c. 1924 [ADOM 19222]
Each order covers land blocks in the Māori Land Court District of Tairawhiti. The orders contain references to the relevant Māori Land Court Minute Book pages (Wairoa Minute Book No.35)
Wellington Road Warrants
Warrants issued by the Governor authorising the taking of Māori land for roading purposes, in the Wellington District. Each entry contained the following details:
Name of Block
Native Land Court Plan
Description of Land
Number of Warrant
Road Plan Number
Date Warrant Exercised
Maori Road Warrants, Wellington 1887-1909 [AFIH 22875 W5687/254-256]
Wellington Land District Index of Warrants for Roads over Māori Land [AFIH 22877 W5687 253 /]
Land Taken for Public Works
The archives of the Ministry of Works and Development contain files on Māori land taken for public works:
When searching in this series useful search terms include ‘taking’ and ‘native Land’ [ABKK W4069] To view the the sub-series in 889 click on the ‘records’ tab. This can help you filter your search [AAQB 889]
Petitions Created by Māori
The New Zealand Settlements Act of 1863 legalised confiscation of Māori land conquered or deserted (during military action). This resulted in petitions to the Crown from Māori and petitions to the Native Land Court. Some of this land was granted back (although not necessarily to the same owner), some of it is still held by the Crown. In addition, land that was not brought into production was considered Waste Lands justifying Crown acquisition of Māori Land.
Some petitions from Māori regarding land can be found through keyword searches in Archway, others are within specific record groups across different agencies. Examples of some petitions are below:
Māori Affairs, Blocks of Land ‘Special Files’ – Series 16046 [ACIH 16046 MA13]
Legislative Department, Series 18507
Māori Petitions Concerning Confiscated Land Claims, 1936 [ADOI 17063]
Major Kemp on behalf of the Federated Māori Assembly, 1893
TW Ratana & others (30128), that The Treaty of Waitangi be made Statutory. Petition No. 239/1932-1933, parts 1 to 7 [AEBE 18507 1932/10]
Many petitions presented to Parliament are reprinted in the Appendices to the Journals of the House of Representatives. 1858-1950 can be searched online on Papers Past.
Crown Purchases of Land
Much of the land which the Crown later granted or sold to individuals was first purchased from Māori, and many records of those purchases exist. A few pertain to acquisitions for reserve, educational or other purposes.
Land taken under the Public Works Act is not documented in the Crown Purchase Deeds collections.
Māori Land Purchase Board
This agency has been used to describe records created and kept by a succession of government agencies concerned with Māori land purchase [AECZ].
The records include volumes of Copies of Deeds of Sale. These contain English and te reo Māori handwritten versions of Deeds of Sale, which were printed in the New Zealand Gazette. All iwi or hapū concerned are noted and sometimes have a small map attached.
Taranaki 1844-1881 [AECZ 18723/1]
Wellington 1849-1872 [AECZ 18723/2]
Hawkes Bay, c.1851-c.1880 [AECZ 18723/3]
Crown Purchase Deeds
Crown Purchase Deeds document land purchased from Māori by the Crown. Called ‘a hundred little treaties’ by one scholar, they are important both historically and for what information they contain, from the names of tūpuna to the location of wāhi tapu.
More than 6,000 of these records exist, covering agreements from all over New Zealand. They mostly date from 1841-1905, but also include some earlier records. Generally, each Deed includes legal and physical descriptions of the land, maps or plans (on or separate to the actual Deed), conditions of sale, the purchase price, names and tohu of tūpuna (sometimes with hapū affiliation noted), and records of payment.
Where the original Deed was written in te reo Māori there is often a translation into English. Many Deeds contain related papers, such as Crown Grants or Māori Land Court Orders.
Indexes to Crown Purchase Deeds
The indexes list some deeds that are not held by us [ABWN 8104 W5279/123-133]
Auckland 1859-1996 (1-3203, 3204-5524, 5525-5803)
Hawkes Bay 1859-1992 (1-876)
Taranaki 1844-1994 (1-870)
Wellington 1858-1994 (1-1821)
Marlborough 1847-1993 (1-370)
Nelson 1856-1992 (1-632)
Westland 1860-1996 (1-171)
Canterbury 1848-1994 (1-1740)
Otago/Southland 1853-1993 (1-1997)
Crown Purchase Deeds
Crown Purchase Deeds 1840 – 1979 [Series 8102]
Many are individually listed on Archway by deed number and name: AUC 1-4710 (gap 2100-2999); HWB 1-514; TAR 4-36; WLN 3-1427; MAR 1-368; NEL 1-539; WES 1-120; CAN 1-1207; OTG 1-5. Others are group listed: Taranaki 2-789; Canterbury 641-1340; Otago/Southland 3-1854.
The indexes list some deeds that are not held by us.
Aperture card copies of many records for the Auckland region are held in the Auckland archive. Some other records also exist and are listed on Archway, some under ‘Native Land Purchase’ or ‘Maori Land Purchase’.
Land taken under the Public Works Act was usually taken by means of a Proclamation. Proclamations consist of a notice published in The New Zealand Gazette and an attached plan.
Proclamations are held by LINZ.
We may hold the plan referenced in the Gazette notice within the Public Works Department plan collections
The richest source of information on Māori land-owners, details of succession details and whakapapa are the records of the Māori Land Court. While the minute books of the Māori Land Court have been indexed to c.1910 by iwi, hapū, tupuna, kaikorero and block name, the majority of the records have not been indexed and must be accessed through the Māori Land Court registers, which are, for the most part, still held by the Courts.
The archives of the Inland Revenue Department also contain information about succession, including Native Succession Orders 1911-1964, and an Index to Native Succession Orders 1920-1924 & 1924-1926. Restrictions apply [AAEC 659 & 658]
Our Auckland archive holds a number of registers and indexes which provide access to the records held by them, including records transferred from Tai Tokerau, Waikato-Maniapoto, Waiariki and Tai Rawhiti Courts.
Records relating to reserves on Māori land can be found in various record groups:
Reserves Māori Affairs Department and the Māori Trustee.
General correspondence; Lands and Survey Department and Land Information New Zealand.
Settlement areas including descriptions of land reserved for Māori use - see New Zealand Company below.
Files relating to burial ground reserves and school sites [ACIH 16036 sub-series 21]
Reports on Native reserves in general, and on the West Coast Settlement Reserves in particular [ACIH 16050]
Māori Reserve File Register (c1890-c1950) [AAMK 6735]
Papers collected during Charles Heaphy’s tenure as Commissioner of Native Reserves, 1869-1881 [AECW 18683 Box 1]
A variety of papers and schedules about Native Reserves and lease registers for the North Island, Motueka, Greymouth and Hokitika/Arahura [AECW 18692]
Schedules of Native Reserves, 1868 – a schedule of owners of land blocks with an index at the beginning of the volume [AECW 18692/19]
Deeds of Register of Native Reserves [AECW 18692/24]
West Coast Settlement Reserves Grant Books which list beneficiaries [AECW 18695]
Domains, cemeteries, loan blocks and reserves [ACGT 18190]
Schedule of Middle Island Reserves, 1879 [ABWN 8923 W5278/90]
New Zealand Company archives (mentioned above) [AAYZ]
Westlands Māori Reserves Index 1865 – 1868 [CAYN 24226 CH1033 Box 3/ 36]
Registers of Reserves, South Auckland Land District 1870 – c.1960 (BAPP 24513)
Pre-1840, 1844-1845 – Old Land Claims
Before 1840 and Te Tiriti o Waitangi all Māori land ownership was based on customary title and all land was purchased directly from Māori. After 1840 land purchases were arranged through the Crown (except between 1844 and 1845).
The new government recognised customary title and held concerns about the legitimacy of earlier sales. As a result, the Old Land Claims Commission was created to investigate the validity of purchases of land from Māori by non- Māori before 1840. Between 1844 and 1845 Governor Fitzroy waived the Crown’s right of pre-emptive purchase, which allowed people to buy land directly from Māori. The Old Land Claims Commission also covers this period and includes:
Old Land Claims Commission [ACFC]
Case files, arranged by name of claimant (i.e. the Pākehā owner) [Series 16153]
Register of Cases, descriptions of land are given [Series 16426]
Half-caste Claims [ACFC 16151 OLC4 Box 6 /38]
Settlers had to provide proof of purchase to the Commission, which then ruled on the applications. Sales that were upheld were legalised through a Crown Grant. Records of these transactions can be found in the Old Land Claims files and Crown Grants (see tab below).
New Zealand Company
The New Zealand Company was formed in 1839 to put into practice Edward Gibbon Wakefield’s theories of systematic colonisation through settlements in New Zealand. The Company began purchasing land at Port Nicholson in later 1839 and at Whanganui in 1841. After the Company failed in 1850 its colonial responsibilities were taken over by the Governor and many NZ Company archives were transferred to the government.
Early records relating to settlements at Wellington, Wanganui, Nelson, New Plymouth, Canterbury and Otago are listed on Archway.
Land Office papers, 1839-1858 include registers of applications for land and descriptions of land reserved for the use of Māori [AAYZ 8981 NZC 33]
Information on events that took place in the Company’s settlements at Wellington, Wanganui, Nelson, New Plymouth, Canterbury and Otago [AAYZ 8971]
Correspondence, Difficulties and Disputes
Correspondence between settlers and the New Zealand Company concerning Māori -settler relations, difficulties and disputes:
Wellington Land Claims Commissioner’s Reports, 1851-1896
Reports into Land Claims made by individuals for land originally bought from the New Zealand Company. These may include references to any sale or division of land between the time of the original purchase from the New Zealand Company and the findings of the Commissioner’s report into the purchase.
A card index in the Wellington Reading Room provides access to these reports [ADXS 19562 LS-W 68/1-15]
Successful claims resulted in a Crown Grant for the land in question. These will be entered in Crown Grants - Wellington Lands & Survey set – (see more in Crown Grants tab) [AFIH 22359 W5687/18-56]
Original documentation relating to these claims. The claim number is needed to access the correct records [ADXS 19552 LS-W 62]
Land Claims Commission Claimant applications, 1851-1895 – [ADXS 19559]
Land Claims Commissioner's Reports, 1851-1896
Original applications for recognition by the Land Claims Commissioner of purchases of land from the New Zealand Company. Access is via the BIO 1 card index in the Wellington reading room or from the reports of the Commissioner – [ADXS 19562]
Register of Land Transfer and applications, 1853-1864 – [ADXS 19513]
This register details transfers of land and applications for Crown Land. There is an index by name at the front of the Volume and the references found here can relate to Applications for Crown Land [ADXS 19505], and Deeds Registers [AFIH 22395].
Waitangi Tribunal Raupatu Document Bank
Published in 1989 by the Waitangi Tribunal, the Raupatu Document Bank is made up of 139 volumes that reference primary sources relating to the confiscation, or raupatu, of Māori land. It contains references to maps and photocopies of correspondence, petitions, memorandums and government announcements.
Geographical areas covered in the volumes include Auckland/Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Hawkes Bay, North Island, Poverty Bay (Tūranganui-a-Kiwa), Taranaki and Tauranga.
The Raupatu Document Bank includes archives and records from institutions across New Zealand. The main record groups mentioned are:
Lands and Surveys [ACGT]
Māori/Native Affairs [ACIH]
Army Department [AAYS]
Legislative Department [AEBE]
A full set of the Raupatu Document Bank is available in the Wellington reading room.
The Waitangi Tribunal has digitised research submitted for Treaty claims that have gone through the Waitangi Tribunal process only. You can access the database online.
Māori and Related Research Blog Posts
Glossary of Land Terms
Certificate of Title:
Records the legal owners of land and all dealings with the land, such as transfers of ownership and mortgages, leases etc. All transactions relating to a specific piece of land are listed on the same title document. References are made up of a volume and folio (page) number and often the abbreviation for the land district is noted in front, e.g. OT 287/50, SL 16/23
Land “vested in Her Majesty” that is not set aside for any public purpose or held by any person in fee simple. It is administered by a Government agency (currently Land Information New Zealand, LINZ).
Land that is owned by an individual or group with few or no restrictions on it. This contrasts with other interests in land such as leases (“leasehold”) and cross-leases. Often referred to as “an estate in fee simple”.
Land registration systems
Land transfer system:
Also known as the Torrens System. Introduced in 1870. It was optional to use this system from 1871, and compulsory from 1924.
Also known as an appellation. How a parcel (or measured piece) of land is officially identified. Traditionally, this was done with block and section numbers within a survey district, a town or a township (or a hundred in Southland). With subdivisions, this is now often done using lots on subdivision plans.
section 2 Block VII Town of Dunedin
part Section 14 Block XII Tiger Hill Survey District
Section 18 Block XXI Invercargill Hundred
Lot 26 DP 4302
The first system for registration of land ownership documents in New Zealand. It was introduced in Otago from 1851 and in Southland from 1863. Māori land is does not fall under the Deeds system.
Land originally owned by the Crown granted to private owners before the title system came about. Crown grants continue to exist till this day for large pieces of land. Any subdivisions of land from a Crown grant will be issued a Certificate of Title.
The deed itself was held by the landowner, as their evidence of ownership. It was lodged and registered at the Deeds Registry Office and copied into a deed register. It was not compulsory to register deeds, and there were often delays between documents being issued and registered. Each transaction relating to a specific piece of land constitutes a separate deed document and therefore a separate entry in the deeds register.
Title and deed terms
Ownership of land is transferred from one individual/party to another.
Deeds plans were made when sections that were registered under the Deeds System were subdivided. Documents were issued for each new area of land, and new plans were lodged in the Deeds Registry Office.
Deposited plan (DP):
Plans recording subdivisions under the Land Transfer Act that have been deposited by the Registrar General of Lands. They are identified by a number and a DP prefix such as DP 12345. These could be a simple plan of the property's boundaries, area and dimensions, a detailed survey plan or a combination of both. Sometimes also known as a ‘Title Plan’ or a ‘Land Transfer Plan’.
Land can be leased from the Crown (particularly common in rural areas), or from one individual/party to another. Leases from the Crown tend to be recorded in Certificate of Title volumes, but this is often not the case with private leases.
Māori Land plan (ML):
Land owner loaned money to pay for the property or took out a loan against the property. In the earlier days, this was often done from a person rather than a bank or financial organisation.
Lease of Crown land for grazing and pastoral purposes by an individual or by body corporates. Leaseholders were granted exclusive occupation rights and fixed rentals for a certain period of time, but were not able to own the land freehold.
A declaration that land is to be taken for a specific purpose, such as a road or a reserve.
Survey Office Plan (SO):
A record of all survey observations (bearing and distances) required to determine the correct position of the boundaries of a lot or section. Survey Office plans show these observations, together with underlying Certificate of Title boundaries, legal roads, and other information necessary to comply with the statutory requirements applying at that time. The plans included mining plans, railway and road plans, topographical maps, and those based on aerial photographs. Plans are identified with a number and an SO prefix such as SO 12345.
The Dunedin archive holds copies of these plans on aperture cards – the originals are still held by Land Information New Zealand (LINZ).
Occurs when land is passed from the estate of a deceased person to another, generally through the court probate process.
Last updated on 21 August 2020
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