What is a whenua lease?
Find out about the different types of whenua leases, and the benefits they can provide.
A lease is an agreement or contract that gives someone (or a group) the right to use your land, with agreed conditions. You need to agree:
- how long the lease will last
- what they can use the whenua for
- how much rent they will pay
- any other conditions or restrictions on the lease.
A lease is a legal property right. It can be registered against the land, have a title issued for it and finance can be raised against the leasehold. Any lease of Māori land must comply with Te Ture Whenua Māori Act.
In some cases, a licence might be a better option than a lease. A whenua licence is an agreement between owners or trustees and someone else, for that person to use the whenua for a specific activity, for example occupying or living on the whenua. This can be applied for at the Māori Land Court. Speak to a kaimahi at the Māori Land Court if you're not sure.
Get contact details for the Māori Land Court
Types of leases
Standard leases are an agreement between owners or trustees and leaseholders, for an agreed period of time (less than 21 years). There are usually a number of opportunities to review of the lease during the term, where rent, responsibilities or conditions can be renegotiated and owners or trustees can check that the terms of the lease are being met.
The Māori Land Court must be notified of any new leases with a term of 21 years or more.
If a lease has a term of 52 years or more, you need to apply to the Māori Land Court and attend a hearing before a judge. Before you can get to this stage, you need to have had a hui to discuss the lease with at least 75% of the owners present.
In the 1800s, the government acquired land on the basis that reserves would be set aside for Māori ownership and use, but administered by the Crown on behalf of the Māori owners.
Much of the land was offered to new settlers under lease arrangements, for farming or housing. Settlers wanted guarantees that leases would be renewed for as long as they wanted to remain on the land, so the Government introduced perpetually renewing leases.
Perpetual leases were one of the many ways Māori were alienated from our land. They are no longer set up, but there are many still in existence around Aotearoa.
Why lease your whenua
With the right lessee, leasing your whenua can:
- help to provide a steady annual rental income
- help to lift the state of the whenua and improve its long term sustainability, for example through more regular maintenance and upkeep
- keep the costs of maintaining the whenua down, for example if the lessee pays the rates and/or insurance
- give you control over what happens on the whenua — when and how it can be accessed, how things are used
- give owners who aren't ahi kā reassurance that their land is being cared for
- help trustees and owners learn more about the whenua and what to do with it. A good lessee can become your partner.
However, leasing the whenua also adds risk. It's very important to get leaseholders with the right skills, knowledge and motivation. You should also have plans in place for how to manage any issues.