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The story of the Nelson Tenths Reserves ​

In the 1840s, the New Zealand Company established the city of Nelson and its surrounding areas, stretching across Tasman and to Golden Bay.


Our tūpuna agreed to the settlement of Nelson according to two conditions:

  • That one-tenth of the Nelson settlement would be reserved in perpetuity for our whānau and hapū.

  • That our papakāinga, urupā, and cultivations and other sacred places would be protected from settlement.

This land was to have comprised ten percent of each of the urban (one acre), suburban (50 acre), and rural (150 acre) sections of the Nelson settlement.


This was a total of 15,100 acres, plus pā, urupā, and cultivations.


The land became known as the Nelson Tenths Reserves.

Image: Inside NZ’s Supreme Court where, in 2017, the Court decided that the Crown owes a legal duty to the beneficiaries of the Nelson Tenths Reserves

A broken promise

The New Zealand Company promised that Māori would prosper as the Tenths Reserves were settled and developed, making the Tenths lands the true compensation for the land. The Tenths were a critical reason our tūpuna agreed to the deal.


The agreement was enshrined in law by way of the Crown Grant 1845. But the agreement was not upheld.


The pā, urupā, and cultivations were not protected. And the rural sections were never reserved.


After 1845, the Crown removed many sections from the 5,100 acres that had already been reserved as Nelson Tenths Reserves.


By 1850, the Nelson Tenths Reserves comprised only 3,953 acres, significantly less than had been guaranteed.


And over the years, more Tenths land was lost.

Image: Plan of the town of Nelson 1842 showing the ‘Native Reserves’ in green.

Wakatū as kaitiaki

In 1977, Wakatū Incorporation was established by its Māori owners to receive the remnant Tenths after many years of protest against the Government and, in particular, the Crown Trustee who had been managing the Nelson Tenths Reserves from 1843 until 1977.


Wakatū is the kaitiaki and legal trustee of the remnant Tenths lands today.


Wakatū was established to ensure that the management and control of the Nelson Tenths Reserves was returned to the customary landowners.


Never again would the Crown and its Trustees manage our lands.

Image: Rore and Lynne Stafford, with whānau and members of the Working Committee outside the High Court, Wellington, August 2020

Making it right

Te Here-ā-Nuku | Making the Tenths Whole is a commitment to hold the Crown to account to uphold its legal duties and return the land it still holds to the beneficiaries of the Nelson Tenths Reserves.


We are calling for three key remedies and principles to be upheld:

  • Return of land – return of the Nelson Tenths Reserves Land and Whenua Tuku Iho to its owners

  • Making the Tenths whole – restoring the Nelson Tenths Reserves estate and reconnecting whānau to whenua

  • Compensation for losses associated with the Crown’s breach of its legal duties

Image: Mārahau