Māori Legal

Home Expertise Māori Legal

Support where you need it

As one of the oldest law firms in Aotearoa, we have a proud history of being involved in some of the most significant developments in Māori Legal, including the seminal Lands case in 1987 – the first case to articulate and apply the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Today, we work with iwi in a post-settlement world, helping them achieve their strategic and commercial goals.
 
Our specialist practitioners from across our firm provide clients operating in te ao Māori with meaningful solutions regarding corporate and commercial matters, environment and resource management matters, trusts, iwi governance, tax, digital and technology, and public law, as well as delivering passionate advocacy in courts at all levels.
 
We are known for developing longstanding relationships with clients and taking the time to understand their aspirations. Our emphasis is on providing our clients working within te ao Māori with a committed, strategic partner who will champion their goals.

Expertise

Corporate and commercial

The firm's industry-leading corporate and commercial teams assist Māori clients with a variety of commercial matters. Our specialists provide a full suite of commercial services that increasingly involve a Māori element, including advising on contracts and specialist advice on post-settlement governance and trust law.

Environment and resource management

Our lawyers advise individuals, hapū, iwi, organisations and large corporates on issues relating to the Resource Management Act 1991, the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf Act 2012, aquaculture management and climate change. We provide strategic advice on major projects from the planning stage through to securing consents, including engagement with tangata whenua.
 
Our team is also well-versed in dealing with sensitive issues such as wāhi tapu and historic heritage, and the development of natural resources including freshwater, coastal space, geothermal systems, minerals, forests and other taonga in a sustainable manner.

Trusts

Complex trust structures used by iwi play a significant role in the life and economy of Aotearoa. We advise clients in te ao Māori on the establishment, management and administration of a wide variety of trusts and on contentious trust matters, including litigation, alternative dispute resolution and pre-litigation advice.

Iwi governance

Our expert, cross-practice team can assist iwi clients with legal issues in the business integrity space, both in proactively designing governance and compliance frameworks and in responding to crises and challenges.
 
Māori-owned businesses are unique in that they are driven not only by financial outcomes but by principles of manaakitanga (mutual respect), whanaungatanga (relationships), kaitiakitanga (responsibility and protection), and taonga tuku iho mō ngā uri whakatipu (guardianship of resources for future generations). Our team recognises that in Māori organisations, the board will take these principles into account, adopting a long-term, more holistic view of the impact of decisions.

Tax

Our specialists offer a unique perspective on Māori related tax issues, providing advice on tax issues affecting Māori organisations and on corporate structuring to align with tax requirements. Our clients also receive strategic advice on new tax regimes and management of taxation issues in the post-settlement world (including registration of charities to achieve the social aims of iwi and hapū alike).
 
Settlements under Te Tiriti o Waitangi often lead to significant judgments where we can assist clients with the management of their taxes post settlement.

Digital and technology

Our digital and technology specialists advise Māori organisations on technology contracts and projects, including the licensing, development and supply of technology solutions. Our specialists also advise clients on the development and commercialisation of technology, and compliance issues relating to the introduction of new technology solutions and services.

Public law

Whether our clients are seeking to engage with central or local government, or pursuing public law litigation, including declaratory proceedings and judicial reviews of administrative action, we bring a unique perspective on Māori public law issues which benefits from the expertise from our Public, Regulatory and Competition team both in Auckland and in the heart of government in Wellington.

Disputes

Our litigators are leaders in their field, with a broad range of experience in resolving complex disputes. Our focus is always on achieving the objectives of our clients – working with them to minimise risk at the outset through to litigation.
 
Our advocates have extensive experience in appearing before the courts, appearing in arbitrations and mediations, assisting with negotiation and consulting with Parliament. We are known for our technical expertise and are respected as top commercial litigators in New Zealand.

Experience

We have been privileged to work with a wide range of clients operating in te ao Māori, including:

  • assisting Te Wānanga o Aotearoa to resolve and settle a range of issues with the Tertiary Education Commission, including alleged breaches of te Tiriti o Waitangi, and negotiating a new partnership model for their future relationship.
  • advising the Wi Pere Trust in relation to legislative reforms to Te Ture Whenua Māori Act 1993, and the interface with the Māori Purposes Act 1991.
  • advising Te Ohu Kaimoana on various aquaculture issues such as the transfer of ownership of coastal permits, the application of the Māori Fisheries Act 2004 to the coasts of offshore islands, and other matters under the Māori Commercial Aquaculture Claims Settlement Act 2004.
 
Our work with iwi clients includes:
     
  • representing the Whakarewarewa Joint Trust in litigation brought against them regarding the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute and Te Puia, and advising them in subsequent settlement negotiations.
  • advising the iwi of the Hauraki Collective on the establishment and operation of Post Settlement Government Entities.
  • working with Ngāti Tūwharetoa on their rental negotiations with the Crown as well as negotiating purchase terms with OTS/Crown agencies, and the establishment of the Ngāti Tūwharetoa Marine Fisheries Committee.
  • advising Ngāti Rangi Environment Court proceedings on the Ngawha Geothermal Power Station Expansion.
  • advising Ngāti Hinerangi on settlement negotiations, the Deed of Settlement process and related mandate challenges, including to the Waitangi Tribunal. We continue to advise the Ngāti Hinerangi Trust on the passage of the Ngāti Hinerangi Claims Settlement Bill.
 
Additionally, we have worked with many corporate and Government clients on mana moana and mana whenua issues, such as:
 
  • advising Auckland International Airport Ltd in the major consenting processes for development of a second runway, involving extensive engagement with mana whenua such as Te Ākitai and Te Kawerau ā Maki.
  • acting for NZ King Salmon in relation to its application to establish eight salmon farms in the Marlborough Sounds. This culminated in the landmark Supreme Court decisions that are now the leading decisions on the interpretation and application of key sections of the RMA.
Related People
Related Expertise