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Legal Action

Some of the landmark cases the New Zealand Maori Council has been engaged in over the last few decades

The 1987 "Lands" case

The council's opposition to the State Owned Enterprises Act 1986 helped create Section 9 which said 'Nothing in this Act shall permit the Crown to act in a manner that is inconsistent with the principles of the Treaty'. It also resulted in the first written version of the Treaty principles that spell out the doctrine of partnership, protection, consultation and compensation for Maori. The council was the plaintiff in the historic New Zealand Maori Council v Attorney-General case in 1987 that successfully blocked the Labour Government from alienating land and resources that would be subject to Waitangi Tribunal in transfers to state-owned enterprises.

Te Ture Whenua Act 1993

The council led the 1993 reform of Maori land which resulted in the Te Ture Whenua Maori Act 1993. The council has also been identified as a key stakeholder in the 2016 Te Ture Whenua Bill.

Maori Forestry

When the Crown intended to sell off the Country's prime forestry assets, there was a total disregard for Maori claims to ownership of the underlying lands. Without the council's timely intervention, the lands in dispute would have been sold off and the income from the forests on the land would have gone entirely into the Government's consolidated accounts. The council established the Crown Forestry Rental Trust to assist claimants with research. This protective mechanism has prevented the sale of the forests and has resulted in claimants receiving $160m with a $385 held in securities.


The council was party to negotiations that led to the 1989 Maori Fisheries Act and the 1992 Sealord settlement together valued at $700m. To date $526m has been transferred to iwi.

Maori Electoral Option

The council took the Crown to the Waitangi Tribunal for not upholding the tino rangatiratanga of Maori. As a result, funds were made available for Maori organisations to enrol Maori, thereby increasing Maori seats from four to seven.

Maori Television

The council held the Crown accountable to its 1993 promise to establish a Maori Television channel. Almost half a billion dollars has been invested in Maori television programming and broadcasting over the past eleven years. The Maori Television Service now broadcasts over two channels.

Maori Radio Stations

In 1992, the NZ Maori Council took the Crown to the Court of Appeal and then to the Privy Council to appeal the transfer of broadcasting assets. As a result, Te Mangai Paho was set up to fund Maori language programming and 21 Maori radio stations provide services to their communities. Te Mangai Paho now spends $55m a year to support Maori language programming.

Court action against partial privatisation of energy SOEs

In 2012 the council filed an application in the High Court for a judicial review of various Government decisions in an attempt to postpone the Government's mixed ownership model policy of partial privatisation. In December 2012, the High Court ruled against the Māori Council, saying there was nothing in selling the assets to private investors that would prevent future Treaty of Waitangi claims.


"The New Zealand Maori Council has a proud history of holding the Crown to account when it comes to Maori rights and interests ... here are just some of the cases we have taken on behalf of our people..."

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