Maori / Indigenous Law

Maori / Indigenous Law
I have advised Maori / Indigenous Peoples on customary rights, and a range of environmental matters related to land, water and other taonga.

Similarly, I have advised local authorities and developers on how to address customary rights and cultural values during treaty settlement, legislative enactment, and planning and development proposals.

Some of my recent work includes:

  • Counsel for Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Whakaue ki Maketū concerning applications for orders from the High Court recognising protected customary rights and customary marine title under the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act 2011.
  • Counsel for Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Whakaue ki Maketū & Ors in successful appeal against the conditions of resource consent for abandonment of the MV Rena on Astrolabe Reef/Otāiti. Ngāi Te Hapū & Ngā Potiki a Tamapahore Trust v Bay of Plenty Regional Council [2017] NZENVC 073 (EC).
  • Counsel for Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Awa in successful defence of appeal against Environment Court’s decision on provision for a hapu management plan in the Minister’s district plan. Motiti Avocados Limited v Minister of Local Government [2013] NZHC 1268 (HC).
  • Advised legal counsel on answers to Supreme Court’s questions concerning transfer of water rights and priority, during appeal against High Court decision that the sale of Mighty River Power Limited was not unlawful. New Zealand Maori Council v Attorney-General [2013] NZSC 6 (SC).
  • Counsel for Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Awa in successful appeal against Minister of Local Government’s decision on Motiti District Plan. Hoete & Ors v Minister of Local Government [2012] NZENVC 282 (EC).
  • Advised Northland Regional Council on the Ninety Mile Beach Treaty settlement and the council’s statutory powers and functions.
  • Advised Local Government New Zealand on the implications of the Marine and Coastal Area Bill 2010 for the administration of the coastal marine area by regional councils under the Resource Management Act 1991. My advice was tabled before the Maori Affairs Select Committee and led to amendments to the Bill.


“Robert Makgill acted pro bono for us on the Iwi appeals against leaving the wreck of the MV Rena on Astrolabe Reef/Otāiti. After numerous interlocutory arguments brought by the Applicant against our standing the appeals were finally heard in the Environment Court over three weeks in March 2017. Robert worked hard to bring together legal counsel and expert witnesses for all the Iwi Appellants so that we were able present a joint case. He also drew on his relationships with several high-profile expert witnesses who contributed their time and prepared evidence for the Iwi Appellants at little or no cost. This enabled us to present a very strong case against the Applicant who was financed by insurers and owners with extremely deep pockets. Robert was sensitive to our cultural view that the wreck should be removed from Otāiti, but also ensured that a pragmatic approach was taken in submissions and evidence towards seeking stronger cultural and environmental conditions if the consent was not declined. Although the Court did not decline consent, it issued an interim decision requiring the Applicant to formulate much more robust conditions of consent. Robert formed trusting relationships with kuia and kaumatua who often ask how he is and think of him with fond memories. We wish Robert all the very best and highly recommend his legal services.”

Maria Horne (manager) for Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Whakaue ki Maketū Inc. and Te Arawa Takitai Moana Kaumatua Forum