Silver fern
Image: Brendan Bombaci | ©


The Ngā Whenua Rāhui Fund supports the protection of indigenous biodiversity on Māori-owned land while honouring the rights guaranteed to landowners under Te Tiriti o Waitangi.


The principles of the fund are geared towards the owners retaining rangatiratanga (ownership and control) of their land. In its kaupapa and role, Ngā Whenua Rāhui is reaffirming the bond between tangata whenua and the land.

Ki te āwhina i te tangata whenua ki te tiaki i te wao tapu nui a Tane me te putaiao a Nuku i runga i ōna ake whenua.

Who can apply

Māori land authorities such as trusts and incorporations, organisations representative of whānau, hapū or iwi, and Māori owners of general land can apply.

Fund criteria

Before submitting your application, read the full Ngā Whenua Rāhui Fund criteria.

The criteria used for evaluating applications has evolved over time and will continue to evolve as new knowledge emerges.

The following sets out the currently applied criteria and is designed to help applicants consider these matters as they are completing their application.

Additional criteria which might be applied include:

  • urgency of threats to the area that protection could alleviate
  • the opportunity for protection may not arise again
  • costs of protection versus the value of protection
  • costs of not being able to protect other areas.

Cultural Resilience, Maintenance and Practice

The following criteria will be used (but not restricted) to evaluate applications.

  • The area has strong cultural, spiritual and symbolic significance to whānau/hapū/iwi.
  • The area is an important source for native food, natural resources – materials  used for cultural purposes.
  • The area is traditionally known for taonga species.

Ecological Representation

The extent to which the area proposed for protection represents the variety of vegetation that was originally present in the natural landscape, including:

  • commonplace, rare and threatened indigenous species and habitats
  • the ecological processes that link them
  • the extent to which the indigenous biodiversity is already protected to the scale that was originally present.

Ecological Sustainability

The extent to which the area proposed for protection is likely to continue to be viable and evolve in a natural way in the long term, including the extent to which the area is:

  • protected by its size and shape
  • buffered from the effects of adjoining land uses or activities
  • linked to or dependent on other protected areas (either physically or by ecological processes) for its continued viability
  • expected to maintain its ecological integrity through major natural disturbance events
  • vulnerable to the depredations of introduced species
  • able to be managed to protect its ecological values
  • expected to contribute to sustaining existing protected areas, through additional scale, buffering, linkages or restoration.


The following are some key factors that are considered in assessing applications.

  • The extent to which the project meets the Fund's criteria of spiritual and cultural importance, representativeness, practicality for sustainable management and landscape values.
  • The merit of the proposal, particularly in its relationship to the scope, objective and strategy of the Ngā Whenua Rāhui Fund.
  • The contribution the owners will commit to the project.
  • The capacity of the owners to complete the project satisfactorily (including long-term management) and to meet the terms and conditions of any grant.
  • The extent to which the projects are likely to enable effective on-going actions to avoid future dependency on support from the Fund. This may include eco-tourism or other non-extractive activities such as honey production.
  • Projects which are funded for water and soil purposes by Regional Councils.

What the fund excludes

The fund does not cover:

  • administrative overheads or equipment to be purchased for unspecified projects
  • commercially-extractive oriented projects or those involving the immediate or future production of indigenous timber.

Consideration may on occasion be given on a case by case basis to include costs of hui and protection negotiations.

When to apply

Applications will be accepted from 1 July to 30 September each year.

Allow a minimum of six months from the close date before you hear the outcome of your application. 

How to apply

Apply online, or download and send in the completed form by post or email.

C/- The Manager
Ngā Whenua Rāhui
Whare Kaupapa Atawhai
PO Box 10420
Wellington 6143


Note: Your application must be signed, and the original sent via post.

Download the Ngā Whenua Rāhui Fund application pack (PDF, 380K) or (Word, 350K)

Application process

Ngā Whenua Rāhui will collect documentation that is necessary to determine landowners’ legal capacity to enter into a formal arrangement – refer to ‘Methods of protection on Māori land’. We may request further documentation from an applicant such as a Trust Order or copies of encumbrances registered on the land title.

Once we are satisfied that landowners have legal capacity, a Kaitakawaenga will meet with the applicant and visit the land block proposed for protection. Kaitakawaenga may also arrange for an indigenous biodiversity or cultural assessment to be carried out – this is at no cost to the applicant.

Applications that satisfy the criteria are presented to the Ngā Whenua Rāhui Komiti for their consideration. An application that is supported by the Komiti is recommended to the Minister of Conservation for approval.

Assistance with applications

If you have any questions about the Fund or require assistance with completing your application form, contact your regional Kaitakawaenga:

Far North
Meryl Carter
Phone: +64 9 438 3667
Mobile: +64 27 247 5807

Central North Island
George Cooper
Mobile: +64 27 216 4237

East Coast and South East
Whakarae Henare
Phone: +64 6 869 0491
Mobile: +64 27 591 6053

South West
Awhina Eru
Mobile: +64 27 354 7749

South Island
Meryl Carter
Phone: +64 9 438 3667
Mobile: +64 27 247 5807

About the fund

The Ngā Whenua Rāhui Fund is a contestable Ministerial fund that exists to facilitate the voluntary protection of indigenous biodiversity on Māori owned land while honouring the rights guaranteed to Māori landowners under Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

The mission of Ngā Whenua Rāhui is to enable Māori landowners tino rangatiratanga associated with their land and to achieve specific biodiversity outcomes. Established in 1991, Ngā Whenua Rāhui aims to enable, facilitate and support activities directed at the protection of indigenous ecosystems through:

  • helping to protect representative, sustainable, landscape integrity of indigenous biodiversity which have cultural importance to landowners;
  • leaving the land in Māori ownership and control; and,
  • covenanting (kawenata) and management agreements.

Indigenous biodiversity refers to those aspects associated with Tāne Mahuta and the freshwater realm of Tangaroa that in their local or national context are considered important ecologically. It includes indigenous forests, wetlands, tussock lands and coastal dune ecosystems on land owned by Māori.

Methods of protection on Māori Land

Ngā Whenua Rāhui employs three types of agreements to formalise arrangements between landowners and the Minister of Conservation. The type of agreement used will depend on the land status and protection being sought.  The three agreements are:

  • Ngā Whenua Rāhui Kawenata (s77A Reserves Act 1977) applies to long-term protection.
  • Agreement for the Management of Land (s29 Conservation Act 1987) is suited to smaller blocks. Requires an application to be lodged with the Māori Land Court and the proposed area set aside as a Māori Reservation pursuant to s338 of Te Ture Whenua Māori 1993.
  • Deed to enter into a Conservation Covenant (s77 Reserves Act 1977) is used for Māori-owned land that is in General Land Title.

Registration undertaken by Ngā Whenua Rāhui

Once the Kawenata or Agreement for the Management of Land is signed, it is noted in the Māori Land Court. Conservation Covenants signed by owners are registered against the title of the land – Ngā Whenua Rāhui will arrange and pay for surveying costs relating to the area of land proposed for protection.

The Local Government (Rating of Whenua Māori) Amendment Act 2021

On 12 April 2021, the Local Government (Rating of Whenua Māori) Amendment Act was passed. The Act makes changes to the rating of whenua Māori, looking to reduce the barriers for effective partnership between local government and Māori support the development of whenua Māori, and modernise the rating legislation that applies to whenua Māori.

One part of the new Act makes land subject to Ngā Whenua Rāhui kawenata non-rateable from 01 July 2021.

Te Puni Kōkiri resources for Māori landowners and the new Act.

If you have any further questions about this, discuss with your regional Kaitakawaenga.

Role of Ngā Whenua Rāhui Komiti

The fund is administered by the Ngā Whenua Rāhui Komiti who make recommendations to the Minister of Conservation on applications by Māori landowners to legally protect their land. Applications will be considered by the Komiti up to two times per year.


If you have any further questions about the fund, contact the Hastings Ngā Whenua Rāhui office.

Phone: 0800 112 771

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