Creating new conservation law that more holistically and comprehensively supports hapü and iwi leadership in conservation management should be embraced as a critical step towards reversing the decline of Aotearoa New Zealand’s biodiversity. Treaty of Waitangi settlement statutes (for example, the Te Urewera Act 2014) and new conservation policies and practices (for example, the Department of Conservation’s Conservation Management Strategy Northland 2014–2024) throughout the country are strongly recognising the need for tangata whenua to be more involved in the conservation and management of New Zealand’s biodiversity. It is timely for conservation law itself to be reformed to better reflect and support these recent advancements. Conservation law reforms should reflect and support the intent of hapü and iwi to act as kaitiaki (guardians) of New Zealand’s biological heritage. We call for current conservation laws governing biodiversity management to be refreshed and refocused with this intent.