Other organisational structures

Created: July 25, 2013 at 11:14 AM | Updated: August 21, 2023 | By Community Resource Kit

There are a number of less common organisational structures that community groups may choose to use, such as companies, industrial and provident societies and Māori land trusts.

These structures can provide a better fit with a group's purpose and circumstances than the structures previously discussed. (For a comparative summary, see the chart Characteristics of Different Legal Structures at the start of this section.)


Most larger community organisations will be either charitable trusts or incorporated societies. However, for some organisations, registering as a company may provide a better structure under which to operate. Companies are best suited to organisations that have a commercial aspect to them, such as a community-owned business. Companies can register as charitable entities with Charities Services provided they meet the required conditions. (Visit: https://www.charities.govt.nz).

Some common characteristics of companies are:

  • they have directors appointed by individual members and/or other community groups
  • shareholders are not personally liable beyond the value of their shareholding unless they give personal guarantees
  • directors have limited liability
  • to be charitable, they will have charitable or other community purposes stated in the constitution along with other special provisions restricting personal benefit to those involved.
Tip: For more in-depth information on companies visit:

Industrial and provident societies

Relatively few Industrial and Provident Societies (IPS) are registered these days. They were more common in the 1970s when co-operative businesses were popular. Taxi co-operatives are examples of this legal structure, which may be worth considering in some situations, such as when setting up a work or arts marketing co-operative.

For more information on industrial and provident societies visit:   https://www.companiesoffice.govt.nz/all-registers/industrial-and-provident-societies/

Tip: If you intend registering as a company or IPS, you should seek legal advice first. For more information on companies and other organisational structures visit The Companies Office:  https://www.companiesoffice.govt.nz/all-registers/

Māori land trusts

There are five different types of trusts described in Te Ture Whenua Māori Act 1993/Māori Land Act 1993:

  • Pūtea trusts
  • Whānau trusts
  • Ahu whenua trusts
  • Whenua tāpū trusts
  • Kai tiaki trusts.

Māori land trusts can only be set up by the owners of Māori land or their trustees. They are set up under a trust deed and registered with the Māori Land Court (Te Kooti Whenua Māori), with the primary goal of retaining Māori land in Māori ownership. Whānau and Pūtea trusts are the types that are most commonly used.

Pūtea trusts

These are designed to deal with uneconomical smaller share interests within a block or within various blocks of land. Te Ture Whenua Māori Act 1993 requires that the shares, and any income they produce, be held for Māori community purposes.

Whānau trusts

These are designed to hold and manage beneficial interests or shares in Māori land or general land owned by Māori. They enable whānau members to bring together all of their interests or shares in land, for the benefit or advancement of the whānau and the descendants of the tipuna (living or deceased ancestors) named in the trust order.

Ahu whenua trusts

These are land administration trusts designed to manage whole blocks of land administered by the Māori Trustee. They are often used for commercial operations and are the choice for many farming operations over Māori freehold land.

Whenua tāpū trusts

These are designed to manage land belonging to an iwi or hapu. They share many of the features of Ahu whenua trusts and are subject to the same restrictions.

Kai tiaki trusts

These are designed to protect minors or persons under disability who are unable to manage their affairs. They can be constituted over the person's land interests and personal property.

Tip: Te Puni Kōkiri's website has more detailed information on these trusts and other structures used by Māori organisations:  https://www.tpk.govt.nz/en/nga-putea-me-nga-ratonga/governance/effective-governance.
Information on Māori Land Trusts is also available from Māori Land Court Offices, more information here -  https://www.xn--morilandcourt-wqb.govt.nz/ 

Next page: Charities Services and registration

Previous page: Process for setting up a registered charitable trust

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