Extinguishing Title

Extinguishing title front cover

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Abstract

This book presents an argument on the systematic extinguishing of Maori rights to title to land in Aotearoa New Zealand. It identifies the key values informing Crown justification for disposing of inalienable reserve lands to claim their reworking within the contemporary administration of Maori land by the Maori Land Court. The task of the Court is to ensure that no further alienation of Maori land occurs; however, it is claimed that the Court applies restrictive interpretations of Maori customary law (Tikanga) to direct owner-families, who ‘share’ tribal affiliation, to form a tribal trust to administer their undivided interests in land. The Court, furthermore, reserves the right to change the status of trust land, and to transfer it from owner-trustees to the independent Maori Trustee, if it is deemed that owners have not fulfilled their obligations to care for their land. Discontinuity of ownership is the basis for contending that the Court subverts rights to title by upholding customary (communal) law in accordance with Tikanga. Taken as a whole, this reinstitutes Maori dispossession, a process commenced by the Crown. Contrary to its objective to deter further alienation, it is argued that the Court engages in relations of dominance by disregarding common law to accommodate contentious claims to land. Case study of the history of alienation of Ohinepuhiawe Reserve lands reveals the process by which title is extinguished. At the centre is the Elder, Oma Heitia, who tells of her love for her ancestors and ancestral lands. This is juxtaposed with her unedifying treatment in petitioning the Court to have a human burial in private land disinterred and trust land under administration by the Maori Trustee returned. Critical cultural and critical race theory form the conceptual basis for examining the silences of cultural difference ideology and for urging a rethink in Maori affairs. It is intended that this book will be of interest to readers working toward justice for indigenous peoples.