Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Whātua is constituted as a corporate body by the Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Whātua Act 1988 and is a Māori Trust Board under the Māori Trust Boards Act 1955.
It is the sole representative body and authorised voice to deal with issues affecting the whole of Ngāti Whātua. This authority was given by the tribe at a hui-ā-iwi held at the Ōtamatea marae on Saturday 20th February 1993.
It is also a Mandated Iwi Organisation and Iwi Aquaculture Organisation for the purposes of the Māori Fisheries Act 2004.
The Rūnanga represents five takiwā:
Representation from all takiwā on the Rūnanga board is afforded according to a marae ward system based on the numerical presence of a marae.
Ngāti Whātua marae represented by the Rūnanga are;
Te Kauhanganui is a Council of kaumatua and kuia. They are the custodians of traditional knowledge and customs and advise on the tikanga of Ngāti Whātua.
The principal function of Te Kauhanganui is to advise the Rūnanga on all matters involving Ngāti Whātua lore.