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Language: English | Māori

Protecting your whenua for the future

Protecting your whenua with a QEII covenant

A QEII covenant is a permanent way of ensuring your whenua and the indigenous ecosystems it supports are protected – both today, and for generations to come. 

The QEII National Trust (QEII) is an independent charitable trust that works with landowners to protect native biodiversity and cultural heritage values on land across NZ. They do this by helping owners place a covenant on their whenua.

What is a covenant?

Covenants are legally binding agreements that state what a piece of land can and can't be used for. They protect the land "in perpetuity". This means that once a covenant is in place:

  • it can’t be removed, and
  • you can only make changes to the covenant if they’re in line with the covenant's objectives.

This remains the case even if the land is sold. Covenants are an option for whānau who want to:

  • protect the native ecosystems on the whenua
  • return the whenua to its original state
  • protect historical or archaeological sites, like wāhi tapu.

QEII partners with landowners to protect biodiversity on private land, including whenua Māori. They do this by helping owners place a covenant over the land they want to protect. You can put a covenant on any land with values worth protecting, from blocks of native bush on a farm to wetlands or dunes.

Ownership of whenua under a covenant – and any profit the whenua makes – always remains with the landowners. QEII have no ownership rights over the whenua

A woman walking through bush.

How QEII can help

There are a number of ways that QEII can help whānau who want to protect their whenua – from funding to practical, on-the-ground support and advocacy.


QEII help whānau with funding. They will:

  • cover all the costs of a survey to define the boundaries of the protected area
  • split the cost of fencing the area to be protected with the owners
  • put in 60% of deer fence costs (if required and the property is not already a deer farm).

QEII also makes one-off grants towards weed and pest control, or revegetation when a covenant is first established. Once the covenant is in place, landowners can apply to QEII's contestable fund – the Stephenson Fund – for funding to do further work to improve the covenanted whenua.

Find out more about the Stephenson Fund

Your QEII regional rep can also:

  • give you advice on how to best care for your covenant, and
  • support you when you're applying for third-party funding.

Practical support

QEII offer practical on-the-ground support to whānau and owners. Your local QEII rep will visit the whenua every 2 years, and can give you advice on things like:

  • pest control – by supplying or working with other agencies to get bait stations, bait and traps 
  • weed control, and
  • education.

QEII reps have a wealth of knowledge to share, and can offer you advice and guidance on how to protect and nurture your whenua.


Another part of QEII's role is to defend the biodiversity and indigenous ecosystems in covenants against anyone who challenges them. For example, if a private developer tries to overturn a covenant through the courts, QEII will work to ensure the covenant is upheld. This can include going to court – and to date, QEII have not lost any court cases. 

The only exception to this rule is when land is acquired under the Public Works Act. The Act gives the Crown authority to acquire land for a "public work" – like a road, bridge, or dam, for example. QEII will take all reasonable steps to challenge this, and to ensure that any public work causes as little damage as possible. 

How it works

Setting up a covenant is a 3 step process.

  • Create a proposal
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    The process of covenanting starts with you and your QEII rep. Your rep will work with all owners of the whenua to:

    • understand your vision and aspirations for the whenua
    • understand the biodiversity and indigenous ecosystems the whenua supports
    • find out what you want to achieve with the covenant and how to do it
    • understand what kind of support you'll need.

    They'll create a proposal showing how you can work together to protect your whenua. 

  • Set the terms of the covenant
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    QEII will work with you and all the landowners to draft a covenant deed. You'll be able to provide input into the terms of the deed to make sure it matches your needs. For example, you might want to make sure you can:

    • continue to use tracks to move stock across covenanted land
    • continue to take water from the covenanted land
    • build huts or allow for commercial eco-tourism activities
    • collect or gather for rongoā or cultural purposes.

    If all landowners agree with what's in the proposal and the covenant deed then it will go to the QEII National Trust for approval.

    A covenant lasts forever. Make sure you understand the impact of putting a covenant on your whenua – both for your whānau today and for future generations. 

  • Put the covenant in place
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    Before you can finalise the covenant, you'll work with your local QEII rep to fence the area of land you want to protect. Your rep will inspect the fencing once it's done. They'll also organise and pay to get a survey of the covenant boundaries done. 

    After that, QEII will register the covenant with LINZ to get it added to the land title. At this point, your whenua is legally protected for the future.

If you're interested in placing a covenant on your whenua, get in touch with your local QEII rep. 

Get contact details for your local QEII rep

You can offer access to your whenua to the public, if you wish. This could provide you with other opportunities, for example, in tourism, business, or education.
You can see examples of what others have done with their whenua across the motu on the QEII website.
See what whānau are doing with covenanted land