Getting started on your whenua
Owner rights and responsibilities
Part of your responsibility as a land owner is getting involved in matters to do with your whenua.
What you're entitled to
As a legally recognised owner, you can:
- participate in discussions about what happens on the whenua
- vote on decisions that affect the whenua – like how it's governed or managed
- access grants and scholarships.
If your whenua earns an income, you may also be entitled to share in that putea. This depends on whether there’s a trust set up to govern the whenua, and what the rules set out in their trust order allow. For example, it might state that any income should be reinvested in the whenua instead of shared among the owners.
If your trust does share income from the whenua among owners, make sure the trustees have a note of your bank account details.
When you legally become an "owner", you become responsible for the land — protecting it and making it better for future generations. There are lots of different ways to do this, from keeping yourself generally up-to-date with what's happening on the whenua, to doing physical work on it, to becoming a trustee.
There might be some financial responsibilities, for example you might have to contribute towards paying rates — talk to other owners or trustees about this before you pay anything.
How much you participate in the whenua is up to you — but when you’re ready to start getting involved, lean on others in the whānau when you need to. They can help you find out what’s happening on the whenua, and what you can do to get involved. There might be a group of people in the whānau who can share their knowledge of the whenua with you.
Whānau don’t need to be landowners themselves to help you out either. For example, if you feel like you don’t have time to start finding out about the whenua, or you’re not sure who to talk to, ask your kids to help.
A good place to start is by finding out as much as you can about the whenua itself. You could get one of our Tōku Whenua reports, which will help you:
- find out where your whenua is — you’ll be able to see the boundaries of the land and find it on the map
- see aerial photos of the whenua as it looks now
- find out about the environment, economy, and climate in the rohe where the whenua is
- get information about the whenua itself — about the soil, water, slope, and vegetation there.
You can also use the Māori Land Court's "Māori Land Online" website to find out more about your whenua. It will show you:
- a list of all of the whenua you're an owner of
- a full list of owners for each block
- whether or not the land is being governed by a trust
- names of the trustees, if there is a trust.
If there’s a trust governing your whenua
If the whenua is governed by a trust, a good first step is to get in touch with the trustees. You can find contact details for trustees by:
- visiting an MLC office to search for details of the trust. You can use MLC’s kiosk to find court records or court minutes related to the trust, which may include the names of trustees
- checking the electoral roll to find contact details for any trustees you know of
- checking Facebook — the trust may have a Facebook page and you can get in touch with trustees there
- asking whānau if they have contact details for anyone on the trust.
You may find that one of your whanaunga is a trustee and you already know how to get in touch with them.
If you’re an owner in more than one block, you’ll need to do a search for each block separately to see if there’s a trust in place for it.
When you get in touch, let the trustees know you’re a new owner, and:
- give them your contact details, so they can send you updates about the whenua, and let you know when they’re holding hui
- ask about what’s currently happening on the land, if anything
- give them your bank account details if they need them.
If there’s no trust governing your whenua
If there isn’t a trust, you could try reaching out to whānau and other owners. Talk with them about their hopes and aspirations for the whenua. You may be able to start working together to come up with a shared vision to nurture your whenua and whānau into the future.
If you're passionate about the whenua and have the time to invest in it, there’s so much you can do to help realise its potential, and help whānau connect back to it.