Story: Ngā rōpū – Māori organisations

Page 2. New Māori organisations, early 20th century

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Māori councils

In 1900 two acts were passed setting up Māori land councils and Māori councils. The purpose of the Māori land councils was to administer Māori land. There was a mix of Māori and Pākehā membership on these councils, with a Māori majority, but later the government changed this to a Pākehā majority.

The Māori councils allowed tribal members to form a council which would oversee the health and welfare of a kāinga.

Commentators have suggested that these acts were put in place to undermine the Kotahitanga Parliament and the Kīngitanga. Although these councils were tribally- or marae-based, they were government controlled.

Māori land trusts and incorporations

The continued reform of Māori land legislation saw trusts and incorporations become the most common organisations for managing Māori land. Rather than the traditional control by whānau and hapū, land was administered by structures responsible to the Māori land court.

Young Māori Party

The Young Māori Party developed from the Te Aute College Students’ Association. Its key driver was Apirana Ngata, but it had significant support initially from the principal, John Thornton. It attracted many famous members, particularly former students of Te Aute College including Ngata, Peter Buck (Te Rangi Hīroa) and Māui Pōmare. The focus of the organisation was on social and health reform using political influence in the New Zealand Parliament.

Second World War

At the start of the Second World War the Maori War Effort Organisation was formed to recruit Māori into the war. It was led by MPs Paraire Paikea and Eruera Tirikātene. Politician Apirana Ngata was also a driver of the Māori war effort and supported the formation of 28 (Maori) Battalion. The battalion’s structure acknowledged tribal connections, grouping members of tribes in related units.


After the Second World War there was extensive, rapid urbanisation of Māori. This was unplanned and occurred within one generation. In 1950, 80% of Māori were rural and 20% urban; by 1980 these figures were reversed. It was transforming for all: those who moved, those left behind and those already living in urban areas were affected.

Māori Women’s Welfare League

The Māori Women’s Welfare League held its first conference in 1951. Delegates were from welfare committees established by Māori Welfare Officers under the Māori Welfare Act 1945. The league took a key role in assisting Māori whānau, particularly with the pressures of urbanisation.

New Zealand Māori Council

The New Zealand Māori Council was established in 1962 under the Māori Welfare Act of that year. It was intended to be a nationally representative body based on a structure of committees feeding into district Māori councils, which in turn provided delegates for the national council.

The national council came into prominence, particularly from the 1980s when it won landmark cases about Māori rights under the Treaty of Waitangi in court.

How to cite this page:

Basil Keane, 'Ngā rōpū – Māori organisations - New Māori organisations, early 20th century', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 24 June 2024)

Story by Basil Keane, published 5 May 2011, updated 1 Jun 2017