But that decision should be made by families, they say, not by the courts.
The ground-breaking decision on Maori protocol comes after the judicial committee of the Privy Council last year ruled in favour of an adopted son, Richard Browne.
Sitting as the Cook Islands’ highest court in London, Lord Sumption dismissed an appeal from two sisters, the biological children of Browne’s adoptive parents, who said he should not be entitled to inherit family land.
The Are Ariki are to deliver the resolutions from this year’s conference to the Minister of Culture, George Angene, for consideration by the Cabinet.
Tupuna Rakanui, the Clerk of the Are Ariki, said the questions of succession for children who are not related by blood had created trouble for families, in and out of court.
The question was, “what exactly are our Maori customs in relation to these issues?”
“There are inconsistencies in our court on cases such as this,” said Rakanui, “and the impacts on the families concerned has generated anger, confusion and bitterness.
“The conclusive view is that children with no chance of knowing who their biological parents are, maybe should be limited to claiming lands only from their adoptive parents.”
But he also said the Ui Ariki decided it was best the kopu tangata (families) decide whether adopted children are entitled to inherit land, and whether for life interest or in perpetuity.
“These (indigenous) children of ours cannot be ignored, they are Cook Islanders,” hesaid.
More Cook Islands are now leaving behind a will or “reo iku”, stipulating how they want their property distributed.
The Ui Ariki are asking the kopu tangata to take these documents into consideration, as they are the wishes of their parents.
“The Are Ariki do recognise they do not have jurisdiction over the Privy Council,” said Rakanui. “However, they will strongly recommend to government with a submission, to pass legislation to allow the decision of the Privy Council to only adhere to that particular case.”
“The Are Ariki considers the need to protect the rights of the kopu tangata to make the decisions on cases such as these.
Rakanui acknowledged some would not be happy with Are Ariki’s submission, but he said “it is in the best interests of our Maori customs.”