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Māori land loss, 1860-2000

Media: Stepthrough
  • Māori Land at 1860
    In 1860 Māori held about 80% (approximately 23.2 million acres or 9.4 million hectares) of the land in the North Island. Much of the 6 million or so acres owned by Europeans had been bought by the Crown. For most years between 1840 and 1860, the Crown had the exclusive right to purchase land from Māori (as agreed to in article 2 of the Treaty of Waitangi).

  • Māori Land at 1890
    In 1890 Māori held about 40% (approximately 11.6 million acres or 4.7 million hectares) of the land in the North Island. This was roughly half what they held 30 years before. The wars of the 1860s provided the chance to gain Māori land for the growing number of European settlers. More than 4 million acres of Māori land were confiscated at this time, including large areas of the Waikato. The Native Land Court (and various Native land laws) led to a further 8 million acres passing to European ownership between 1865 and 1890.

  • Māori Land at 1910
    In 1910 Māori held nearly 27% (approximately 7.7 million acres or 3.1 million hectares) of the land of the North Island. The rate of land loss between 1890 and 1910 was slower than earlier periods. Even so, there were some significant purchases during this period. By 1910, Māori in parts of the North Island retained very little land: Auckland, Hauraki, Waikato, Taranaki, Poverty Bay, Hawke’s Bay, Wairarapa, and Wellington. Some of these areas had large Māori populations.

  • Māori Land at 1939
    In 1939 Māori held about 9% (approximately 2.8 million acres or 1.1 million hectares) of the land of the North Island. Land passed from Māori to Europeans through various Māori land boards and trustees. Māori leaders such as Apirana Ngata worked hard to stop the flow, but it was not until about 1928 that sales slowed.

  • Māori Land at 2000
    In 2000 Māori held only a fraction of the land of the North Island — perhaps as little as 4%. Over the 20th century, the Crown (including local government) took land for public works purposes. Sometimes, land was gifted to the Crown for specific purposes, such as schools. Such land has not necessarily been returned to Māori once the original purposes have been fulfilled.

These maps chart the loss of Māori land (shaded blue) in the North Island between 1860 and 2000. The Crown and the New Zealand Company had purchased nearly 99% of the South Island by 1865. For details, see the Ngāi Tahu land claim and Māori land loss: South Island (Te Ara).


This map is adapted from Appendix four of Claudia Orange, Illustrated History of the Treaty of Waitangi (BWB, 2004). This in turn is based on National Overview, Rangahaua Whanui Series, Waitangi Tribunal, Wellington 1997, vol II, ppX-XIV 

How to cite this page

Māori land loss, 1860-2000, URL:, (Manatū Taonga — Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated