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How should the Property (Relationships) Act 1976 treat family homes on Māori land?

Generally, when a couple separate, they must divide their family home.

But the Property (Relationships) Act 1976 does not apply to Māori land.

If the couple’s family home is on Māori land, it will not be divided under the Property (Relationships) Act 1976 if the partners separate or if one of them dies.

Māori land is exempt from division because of its special significance to Māori. It is a taonga tuku iho – land to hand down through generations within the whānau or hapū. It is different to general land.

Māori land also has its own comprehensive legislation (Te Ture Whenua Maori Land Act 1993). The division rules of the Property (Relationships) Act 1976, if they applied, might cut across this legislation.

But sometimes, a couple may live on Māori land for years. A partner with no interest in the land may pay to build a home on the land or spend money or do work enhancing the home. In those situations, if the partners separate, perhaps the value of their home should be shared even if it is on Māori land.

We want to know how you think the law should respond when a family’s home sits on Māori land.

What do you think?

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