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Māori business

Māori and Treaty of Waitangi issues are part of New Zealand’s mainstream law, influencing a diverse range of legal matters, from taxation to consultation.

Kensington Swan’s Māori Business team is a leading provider of advice to iwi and the private sector on the full range of Māori legal issues. We have unparalleled experience and expertise in the law relating to Māori and the Treaty of Waitangi, and the policy and legal framework affecting Māori culture and heritage.

Our clients include iwi, hapu, Māori organisations (including mandated organisations and settlement trusts), government agencies, local government, and corporates.

Our practice covers:

  • Treaty of Waitangi
  • foreshore and seabed law
  • relationship arrangements
  • dispute resolution
  • governance and structuring
  • asset management and development
  • environmental and resource management
  • cultural heritage protection and research
  • intellectual property
  • Māori land and wahi tapu protection.

Treaty of Waitangi

The Treaty of Waitangi has resulted in a range of highly complex and specialised laws and policies. There are over 100 statutes currently in force in New Zealand that refer to the Treaty of Waitangi, Treaty and Māori principles, or provide for the management of Māori land or settlement assets, as well as a complex range of policy and Treaty settlement obligations. We provide expert advice on the implications of Māori and Treaty issues in legislation both for Government, in their decision making processes, and for other sectors.

Cultural heritage and intellectual property

We provide expert advice on Māori interests and Treaty issues in a diverse range of cultural heritage, traditional knowledge, and intellectual property contexts. This includes trademarks, copyright, historic places, antiquities, and sui generis (stand alone) special legislative recognition of Māori taonga.

We were involved in the Waitangi Tribunal Flora and Fauna Inquiry which resulted in the Ko Aotearoa Tēnei (A Report into Claims Concerning New Zealand Law and Policy Affecting Māori Culture and Identity) 2011, and the development of special legislation to protect cultural taonga and trademark applications for the haka Ka Mate.

Commercial development

Governance and structuring

Māori organisations are commercial enterprises yet often also incorporate social and cultural objectives. We have extensive experience working within this holistic framework and can provide specialist advice that balances economic, social, cultural, and environmental factors.

We provide advice to a range of Māori organisations on the best ways to structure themselves and their social, cultural and commercial enterprises. We assist our clients in meeting the range of statutory and government policy requirements, especially in relation to Māori fisheries, taxation, Treaty of Waitangi settlements and Te Ture Whenua Māori Act 1993.

Our team helps Māori organisations ensure they are established and managed to minimise costs and the risks to the assets they hold on others’ behalf.

Asset management and development 

We provide expert legal advice on the full range of commercial opportunities available to Māori organisations, including fisheries, forestry, traditional knowledge (matauranga Māori), intellectual property, land management and development, energy, telecommunications, healthcare, and education.

Through strategic commercial and legal advice we help Māori organisations protect and develop their settlement assets. This includes advice on development projects, joint ventures and partnerships, acquiring or disposing of business assets, and financing and negotiating venture capital.

We can also assist with influencing policy development and decision-making processes, preparing submissions and providing input during consultation processes, and challenging decisions that are contrary to our clients’ best interests or adversely affect their customary rights.

Land and resources

Foreshore and seabed law

Our team has been involved at every step of the development of the foreshore and seabed law, including the original litigation leading to the Foreshore and Seabed legislation, applications to the Māori Land Court, the development of the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act 2011 and court proceedings and proposed negotiation under that legislation. We have also advised public bodies and local government on the implications of very step of this development.

Environmental law and resource management

We advise on Māori interests and Treaty issues in a diverse range of environment policy and resource management contexts, including fisheries, forestry, energy and natural resources, and resource management processes.

For organisations involved in land development, we can advise on the consultation requirements with tangata whenua, including planning and resource consents for major projects. We also deal with heritage issues such as wahi tapu and historic sites.

Relationship arrangements

Strong relationships are the basis of any successful transaction and this is especially true in matters involving Māori. We advise organisations in their dealings with Māori, and iwi and Māori organisations in their relations with the private sector and government.

A key strength we bring is our familiarity with tikanga Māori, the ability to build collaborative relationships, and the ability to operate comfortably in a Māori, commercial, and government context.

We also provide advice on consultation and strategic relationship building with Māori groups, particularly in the context of infrastructure and resource projects. Our team has also been closely involved in a wide range of new and innovative co-management relationships between Māori and government and local government.

Māori land law

Māori land law is one of the two main land tenure systems in New Zealand but is often misunderstood and poorly dealt with. We have extensive academic and practical experience in policy and law reform projects and with the technical aspects of Māori land law. Particular issues we have been involved with include representation proceedings, vesting in special trusts, Māori land trusts and incorporations, and trust management. 

Claim negotiations and settlements

No two Treaty of Waitangi claims are the same. We believe it is important to work in partnership with you to devise an approach that best meets the needs of your iwi.

We advise on historical and contemporary Treaty of Waitangi claims, and can assist with preparing claims. We also act as counsel and project managers in Waitangi Tribunal inquiries, negotiations, and settlements.

When you work with us, you know you will be fully prepared for negotiations with the Crown. Our expertise and long-standing involvement in Treaty claims means we are regarded as one of the best in this field.

Our holistic view and access to experts in a number of related fields ensures any negotiations reflect the big picture for Māori.

Recent experience

Ministry of Economic Development

We advised the Ministry on a range of potential Treaty policy and legal constraints relating to a major project, as well as the implications of current settlement negotiations and the recent decision of the Supreme Court in Haronga v Waitangi Tribunal and A-G. This involved the availability of potential redress and the effect of the resumption memorials under the State-Owned Enterprises Act.

Ngāti Raukawa

Ngāti Raukawa is one of many iwi we have acted for in Treaty settlement negotiations. We were instructed to advise the iwi on its Central North Island Forests settlement and the Waikato River co-management negotiations. The outcome has been an innovative co-management agreement in respect to the Waikato River and successful settlement of the long-standing claims to central North Island forests. We helped to achieve an outcome that allows for the re-establishment of a strong iwi to meet the social, economic, and spiritual needs of its people.

Ngāti Toa Rangatira

We have acted for Ngāti Toa Rangatira in their Treaty settlement negotiations but also in development of a Memorandum of Understanding with the New Zealand Rugby Football Union in respect to the haka Ka Mate, composed by the iwi’s chief Te Rauaparaha, to provide for its use by the All Blacks and its protection from misuse. We are also acting on applications for trademarks in respect to the haka on behalf of the iwi. 

Ngāti Kahungunu

We act for several Ngāti Kahungunu hapu in development of a statutory Joint Planning Committee to oversee and monitor natural resource planning processes that affect the Hawkes Bay region, in particular the rivers, and include drafting, and recommending to the Regional Council, plan and policy changes that affect natural resources in the region. We are also working on the development of a new form of partnership agreement between hapu and the Department of Conservation.



Related legal services

Corporate governance
Government relations
Local government law
Property and real estate law
Intellectual property law

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