Who owns the whenua
manaaki whenua, manaaki whaanau
Many beneficial owners or shareholders may get confused about the issue of who owns the whenua. Ownership differs greatly between the Law and Tikanga. Under general principles of Tikanga Māori, land does not have an owner per se; instead, kaitiaki (custodian) is the concept that is usually employed to describe ownership. Other important concepts include manawhenua, ahikā, and taonga tuku iho.
On the other hand, ownership under the law in terms of Trusts, means that the appointed Trustees are the legal owners of the land, while the beneficial owners, or shareholders, retain an equitable legal interest in that land. Trustees are exposed to legal liability, while beneficial owners enjoy protection from such. The Trustees are bound to administer the property in the interest of its shareholders, and are restricted by the Māori Land Court, legislation, and common law.
If you would like to know more about ownership, Trustee duties, or the rights of beneficial owners call your local Māori Land Court Office.