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The Native Land Laws: global contexts of tenure reform, individual and collective agency, and the structure of “the Māori economy” – a “landless brown proletariat”? (Wai 2180# M29(a)).

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Waitangi Tribunal, ,

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This Waitangi Tribunal report offers an analysis of the evolution of land tenure mechanisms and economic development models within the context of New Zealand's Native Land Laws (NLLs) from 1862 to 1873.

It particularly focuses on the transition from a ‘trust’ title in 1865 to a ‘democratic’ title in 1873, and briefly examines the 1894 ‘committee’ model. The study is distinctive for its exploration of the adaptation of British legal and economic concepts to the Māori tribal context, highlighting the complex interplay between Māori social structures and colonial legal frameworks. It critically evaluates the lack of broader intellectual, political, and economic contexts in Tribunal historiography, advocating for a nuanced understanding of land tenure reforms and their impact on both Māori and settler societies. The report challenges the binary perception of individual versus communal land ownership and emphasises the ongoing negotiation of collective and individual rights within the NLLs. By situating the NLLs within wider intellectual and global contexts, the analysis calls for a reevaluation of conventional narratives, accentuating Māori agency in these legislative transformations and proposing a more intricate view of the socio-economic implications of land tenure system evolution on Māori society.

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