Building Papakāinga On Your Whenua

May 4, 2017

Being able to build Papakāinga on your whenua is a great way for Māori to feel reconnected with their turangawaewae. This article provides a general overview of what Māori face when they want to build Papakāinga and is set out as answers to some of the questions that we have had put to us.

What Are Papakāinga?

“Papa” can refer to Papatūānuku (earth mother) and the connection of people to the land while “kainga” often translates to village or settlement but it also carries a deeper meaning akin to being a place of nourishment of the mind, body and soul. Bringing these words together, “papakāinga” is a term used to describe a range of developments on Māori land that enable sustenance in a variety of forms. However, often the term is used when referring to residential development on Māori land.

Do You Need A Resource Consent From Council For Building Papakāinga?

It depends on the local government planning provisions that apply to the area you want to develop papakāinga on. Resource consent can vary depending on what Council you are applying to. For example, Gisborne, Whangarei and Hastings all have slightly different controls for papakāinga. Taking Hastings District Council as an example, a resource consent is required if your proposal does not comply with one or more of the ‘permitted activity’ rules in the Hastings District Plan. Under the Hastings District Plan papakāinga is a controlled activity. However, Whangarei District Council has been in the process of removing the need for resource consents for papakāinga where they meet the threshold set out under a recent papakāinga plan change provision. Although, resource consents may still be required where building falls outside that plan change provision.

Do Councils Only Consider Legally Related Whānau?

This is a question that sometimes arises in relation to who can build on Māori land and more often than not the question is often posed in relation to whether whangai can build or succeed to interests in Māori land.

A whangai under the Te Ture Whenua Māori Act is a person adopted in accordance with Māori custom (rather than by legal adoption). Before an application is made to the Council for a papakāinga development, whanau and owners of Māori land will have been through the Māori Land Court which has its own process to ensure succession orders, occupation orders, trust formation and the like are determined in order to establish entitlements to the whenua. In that forum, issues such as whangai entitlements may also be addressed. If there are issues surrounding ‘legally related whanau’ or whangai, the Māori Land Court will make a determination on whether the person has interests in the Māori land. Whatever that ruling is, the local Council will follow that decision in considering a papakāinga application.

Are Papakāinga Only For Māori?

Papakāinga are developments on Māori land therefore you need to have a connection to that land in order to meet the requirements for building papakāinga. As set out above, ownership and rights to Māori Land is determined by the Māori Land Court. The primary objective of Te Ture Whenua Māori Act is to promote the retention of land for Māori whanau and hapū and papakāinga are an integral way of facilitating the connections for whanau back to their whenua tupuna.

Can there be multiple papakāinga buildings on Māori land or can there only be one papakāinga building?

Papakāinga are usually going to cater for more than one dwelling in a designated papakāinga area. The exact requirements will be subject to each District Council’s planning provisions which will identify how big a dwelling per square metre would be allowed in each designated papakāinga area. In some cases though this will mean that one large papakāinga building could be built or several, provided the footprint of the dwelling fits within the permitted square metre allowance.

Is There Funding Available For Māori?

Kiwibank and Housing New Zealand joined forces in 2010 to create ‘kāinga whenua loans’. Māori now have the ability to build, buy or relocate a house onto Māori land where you have a licence to occupy.

To qualify for the loan, Kiwibank has specific criteria that needs to be met. The difference between a kainga whenua loan and a mortgage is that the loan is secured against the house as opposed to the house and land. This helps to avoid issues in the past where banks have been skeptical to secure a loan against Māori land because of multiple ownership making it difficult to recover debt.

Other options may be available to fit your specific needs, contact us today for more information.

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about the author

Kelly Dixon


Kelly specialises in civil litigation and in providing strategic advice on private law matters as well as the full range of hapū and iwi governance issues.


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