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Maori legal projects win Foundation support

16 July 2013

Several Law Foundation-backed projects are contributing to identifying important themes and collating historic information on Māori legal issues.

Taken together, these studies are building a significant and valuable research base for scholars and practitioners alike. They will make key Māori legal information identifiable and accessible, leading to improvements in legal theory and practice.

One such project is Te Akinga – a Brookers Māori Law Treatise. Work is now under way on this study of Māori concepts, principles and norms across the legal spectrum. The editorial team is being led by High Court Justice Joe Williams and Associate Professor Jacinta Ruru of Otago University.

Dr Ruru says the book will analyse how Parliament and the courts have dealt with Māori law by identifying themes and connections across legal disciplines. These include Māori land, the Treaty of Waitangi, aboriginal rights, environmental law, cultural and language rights, and family law.

“Every aspect of our law touches on issues that involve Māori. There are often precedents that involve Māori. Hopefully this work will be of interest to academics, practitioners, students, Māori, government departments, councils – anyone dealing with an aspect of the law that requires Māori consideration,” she says.

The author team includes Dr Claire Charters, Carwyn Jones, Craig Linkhorn, Dr Matthew Palmer, and Justice Christian Whata, with others possibly to be added.

The book’s seven sections will cover Te Ao Māori (customary law), early European contact, transitional justice (Treaty settlement law), governance, human rights, modern legal issues and the future.

Dr Ruru says the book’s title comes from Chief Te Kooti’s statement “Ma Ta ture ano te ture e aki,” usually translated as: “only the law can be pitted against the law.” She says this phrase expressed Te Kooti’s support for the rule of law as an alternative to warfare.

“Te Akinga also means applied pressure, which is what this book should produce – subtly. The aim is to produce a text that performs the same function in New Zealand as Felix Cohen’s famous Handbook of Federal Indian Law does in the United States.

“The book will be of similar quality and length to other Brookers treatise books, such as Todd on Torts, Equity and Trusts, and Civil Remedies,” she says.

The Law Foundation is funding research for the book, with Brookers covering publication costs. The team aims to have the book published in time for the start of the 2015 academic year.

Other recent Māori law-related projects supported by the Law Foundation include:

A scoping study for a Māori Law Resource Hub project, by Mamari Stevens of Victoria University. This work looks at the feasibility of an online platform of legal resources, a customary Māori lexicon, or Te Matapunenga, and a dictionary of Māori legal terms.

Treaty of Waitangi Settlements, a series of essays on the Treaty settlement process, compiled by Nicola Wheen and Janine Hayward of Otago University, published in 2012.

Professor David Williams’ book A Simple Nullity? The Wi Parata case in New Zealand Law and History, published in 2011.

A study of Native Land Court reports by Victoria Law Professor Richard Boast, due for publication soon.

Visit the Law Foundation’s website at for more information about Law Foundation-funded projects.

Last updated on the 17th March 2016