*Hoki Whenua Mai comes from the whakatauākī "i riro whenua atu, me hoki whenua mai" (as land was taken then land should be given back) of Marae Edwards, Ngāti Hikairo

Aotearoa can be a place where active kaitiakitanga led by tangata whenua guides our relationship to taiao, ensuring our tūpuna whenua, awa, and maunga are cared for. A place where Te Tiriti o Waitangi is honoured in full, the injustices caused by colonisation can be redressed, and our people and taiao can be healed as we head into the future.

But colonisation - including governmental policies of land dispossession - has resulted in most land in Aotearoa being alienated from tangata whenua. This legacy along with continued detachment from whenua constitute the most significant factors in why Māori experience so many disproportionately negative outcomes on their own whenua today.

With the 50th anniversary of the Waitangi Tribunal approaching in 2025, it is time to look beyond the surface of the wrongs inflicted by colonisation through land dispossession, and consider what proper restitution for tangata whenua looks like in Aotearoa.

We suggest a few ways to achieve this:

  1. Conducting an inquiry into the full extent of the dispossession of whenua.
  2. Revisiting Settlements to ensure adequacy of redress.
  3. Additional redress at the level of hapū, whānau, Māori collectives, outside the Treaty Settlement process.
  4. Enabling the return of whenua not owned by the Crown.

The Green Party knows that the Crown needs to address the real problem and return land to tangata whenua – me hoki whenua mai. We want to hear from Māori about returning whenua.




The Treaty settlement processes has inbuilt limitation. The first step we suggest is to have the Waitangi Tribunal undertake a more comprehensive investigation into land dispossession as a whole, and its present value. This would include the extent to which whenua was seized because of public works and rating arrears, and was wrongfully alienated through the Native Land courts and through improper transactions. This information would then be assembled in a format that is easily accessible to iwi, hapū and whānau (including searchability), and used to support other complementary redress mechanisms, discussed below.

The concept of full and final settlement is unjust, and it is time for this to be revisited. Settlements that provide only a small fraction of the value of land lost should not be considered full and final, and this is especially true considering that ‘full, exclusive and undisturbed possession of their lands’ was guaranteed to tangata whenua under Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Revisiting settlements could involve developing a new model, or a range of models that allow reconsideration of redress based on previous findings and then provide for reparations, restitution, and proper redress. These models could include taking a co-governance approach to address breaches to Te Tiriti, or making the recommendations of the Waitangi Tribunal binding.

Revisiting settlements could realistically take place over a 10 year period. The Waitangi Tribunal has previously changed its approach to claims and set a goal of around 10 years to complete its 'kaupapa inquiry' claims.

Considering that there is extensive research and evidence of the breaches that the Crown has made to Te Tiriti, revisiting claims may not require as extensive research as the original round of iwi settlements.

The current Treaty settlement framework and its requirement for 'large natural groupings' creates barriers for full redress in both process and outcome. This requirement reflects the interests of the Crown, and does not attempt to return the specific land wrongly taken from Māori, or alternative land of equivalent value and significance. Introducing new mechanisms for redress at hapū/whānau level would provide greater scope to restore relationships to whenua that improve holistic and intergenerational wellbeing. This could be done by establishing a Hoki Whenua Mai fund for whānau/hapū to reacquire dispossessed Māori land. This could be done at variable scale:

  1. Financial assistance, ranging from a grant to assist in securing a deposit to providing the full purchase price. This would enable land to be purchased at the whānau and hapū level, more closely reflecting Māori ways of organising. This would more effectively allow whānau and hapū to reacquire and restore relationships with whenua specific to their own histories and needs, as these will often differ significantly within iwi.
  2. Direct Crown acquisition then transfer of land, through new provisions in the Public Works Act to allow land to be acquired for the purpose of returning raupatu land (at market rates but precluding sale to an alternative buyer).

Eligible land could be that which has been found to be whenua raupatu by the Waitangi Tribunal (which has mostly already been identified). This could be reserved for whānau and hapū who have not directly benefited from a Treaty settlement in terms of land holdings or if done together with Option 2 above it could be broader, recognising that full and final settlements are not full so should not be final. Any redress provided through this mechanism would then be taken into account when determining other complementary redress.

In the future, the Hoki Whenua Mai fund could also potentially expand to ensure that all land taken through mechanisms that breached protections under Te Tiriti or the Treaty (such as public works land that was on-sold instead of returned and land taken because of rating arrears) is returned to its original owners. This would be possible after future investigations by the Waitangi Tribunal to assess the scale of land taken in this way and the specific parcels it would apply to.

Such a fund would require ongoing resourcing in order to provide all tangata whenua with the opportunity to reacquire their alienated whenua as it comes up for sale on the private market. Ideally, the fund would be resourced until it is no longer needed, until all whānau or hapū have had the opportunity to buy back wrongfully taken land as it came up for sale privately.

The Waitangi Tribunal previously had the ability to make recommendations in relation to privately owned land, but this was removed through the introduction of the Treaty of Waitangi Amendment Act 1993 by the fourth National Government. Reinstating this ability would allow for Crown acquisition of dispossessed whenua, for subsequent transfer. This would be a good option to implement immediately. Although most iwi have settled now, there are some that are yet to complete a settlement and would benefit from this. Reinstating this power is a simple law change. However, it would need to be combined with changes above to full and final settlements to prevent unequal outcomes for iwi that have already settled, compared with those who have not yet settled.

Most of the remaining land that has been wrongfully alienated from Māori is currently privately owned. When it sells, it often gets divided into smaller and smaller pieces, making it difficult to get back to its original owners. The Crown needs to put more effort into returning private land, as it was instrumental in acquiring private land for sale to private interests in the first place. This statement applies to this option along with options 5 and 6. 

This could be implemented by establishing a new legal right of first refusal for mana whenua over raupatu land, operating outside the Treaty settlement framework. This could be created as a standalone change, without requiring that settlements no longer be full and final, and could be implemented while broader changes are still being considered. It would require a registry of raupatu land, and notation on the title. A new Act of Parliament could then require that all raupatu land be offered to its original owners before any subsequent transfer.

We recognise the limitations of this option, as it requires iwi, hapū and whānau to spend money purchasing land that was wrongfully taken from them initially. On principle, tangata whenua should not have to buy back land that was stolen from them – it should be returned by the Crown. However, this could be a first step, providing an option for returning land to whānau and hapū that have assets to be able to purchase land.

This option would establish a registry that allows private landowners to elect to give the right of first refusal over the purchase of their land to mana whenua when they sell it. It could be financially incentivised, for example through offering a rates discount or tax rebate to those who sign up. This could operate irrespective of land status so as to assist tangata whenua in their reacquisition of whenua. As awareness of the harms of colonisation grows, landowners could be interested in doing this. It would provide a mechanism for returning more land to mana whenua over time, without disrupting current ownership of private owners. It would also allow tauiwi to assist in restoring the role of tangata whenua as kaitiaki of Aotearoa.

We want to hear from Māori about your experiences and ideas to do with returning whenua. The Green Party will be conducting a series of hui to ensure that we hear all of these, so that we understand the different concerns the different concerns affecting whānau and hapū. We know land dispossession is felt at the whānau and hapū level, and so input into our systems for redress should happen at this level too.

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