Law Commission looks to rewrite property law to include tikanga Māori

By Talisa Kupenga
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The New Zealand Law Commission is investigating the Property (Relationships) Act and whether or not it can extend to recognise tikanga Māori when relationships end and property is divided. Public submissions open next week.

The Law Commission is investigating the Property (Relationships) Act 1976 and how it could extend to include tikanga Māori.

Law Commissioner Helen McQueen says "We think that the law should acknowledge tikanga [Māori protocol] and we want to know whether the Property (Relationships) Act allows tikanga to operate."

The Act handles married couples, civil unions and defacto relationships where partners have been together for a period of three years.

McQueen says "we would like to know whether whanaungatanga is sufficiently taken into account in the Act through things like excluding Māori Land and excluding taonga so that important items of property are dealt with in a way that is consistent with tikanga."

Forty-percent of Māori identify as de facto, compared with the national average of 22-percent. McQueen says although Māori land is excluded from settlements, dividing a family home built on Māori land which one of the partners has no claim to is a prevalent issue.  

"We are very interested to know whether family homes built on Māori land are an issue  for people when relationships end. Were interested to know whether taonga is properly treated under the act and also raised questions about how relationship property disputes are resolved."

Public submissions open Monday on The Law Commission's website and public meetings will be held around the country.

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