MAORI LAND COURT Q & A
What are the proceedings Mau Whenua has filed in the Maori Land Court?
Mau Whenua has filed proceedings in the Maori Land Court seeking orders requiring the trustees of the Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust (PNBST) (the Trustees) to produce a written report for the Court on various matters relating to the Trustees’ management of iwi owned assets.
Why has Mau Whenua issued these proceedings?
The decision to issue proceedings follows a number of beneficiaries including kaumātua raising concerns with the Trustees about the management of iwi assets, as explained below. The Trustees have failed to respond adequately to these concerns. Given that these concerns remained unanswered, Mau Whenua has asked the Maori Land Court to assist in requiring the Trustees to provide information on these matters to beneficiaries of the Trust.
(a). Prior to 2015 the Trust had over 18,000 registered members. However, since 2015 thousands of previously registered members of Taranaki Whānui have apparently been “lost” from the Members Register. This has resulted in some previously registered members being told that they are unable to vote on key Trust matters, including trustee elections and a special resolution relating to a significant sale of iwi owned land. The Trustees have previously acknowledged the issues with the Members Register, but have provided no detail to members on whether and if so how the Trustees intend to remedy these issues.
(b). Since around 2015 the Trust has failed to comply with voting procedural requirements, as specified in the Trust Deed. These failures have brought into question the integrity of the voting process including whether persons who are entitled to vote are being given adequate notice of the vote, whether valid votes are being properly counted and whether election voting is being conducted by way of secret ballot.
(c). Since at least 2013 the Trustees have engaged in number of property transactions whereby iwi owned land has been sold to property developers at what appears to be at less than fair value. In a number of instances the land in question has been onsold by those developers almost immediately for what Mau Whenua understands was a significant profit for the developers.
What are the property transactions the Court is being asked to look into in the proceeding?
The transactions the Court is being asked to consider in this proceedings are as follows:
(a). The July 2017 sale of three blocks of land formerly owned by the Trustees located at Shelly Bay to Shelly Bay Investments Limited (SBIL) and the Trustees granting SBIL an option to purchase a significant portion of the fourth block of land at Shelly Bay. SBIL is a company controlled by property developer Mr Ian Cassels. This is the same land in Shelly Bay for which the Trustees proposed a special resolution to sell this land to The Wellington Company Limited, another company controlled by Mr Cassels, in February 2016. That special resolution failed to pass.
(b). The land formerly owned by the Trustees located next to the United States Embassy. That land was sold to Commercial Properties Limited, a property development company controlled by Graeme Cromie and Peter Savage, in November 2018 for what Mau Whenua understands was $1.6 million. The same day Commercial Properties Limited sold that property to the United States Government. Mau Whenua understands the purchase price was $5 million.
(c). The former site of the Waiwhetu School. In 2013 the Trustees sold this land to Commercial Properties Limited. Commercial Properties subdivided the land and on sold it later that year for what Mau Whenua understands was a significant profit.
(d). Land located on the corner of Adelaide Road and King Street in Newtown. This land was sold by the Trustees in June 2017 to Big Future Limited, a property development company controlled by Mr Ian Cassells.
Mau Whenua is seeking, in the first instance:
(a). orders requiring the Trustees to produce a written report for the Court on various matters including:
the Trust’s compliance with its obligations to maintain a Members Register;
the Trust’s compliance with nomination and voting procedural requirements set out in its Trust Deed, including in relation to the upcoming trustee elections; and
the Trustees’ decisions to sell the land outlined above; and
(b). interim orders preventing the Trustees from dealing with or disposing of specific blocks of land, pending the Court determining the substantive application.
Once the written report has been received, Mau Whenua expects to seek further orders to be informed by the content of that written report.
What orders are sought in the proceeding?
Is this proceeding related to the High Court proceeding filed by Mau Whenua against the Trustees and SBIL in July 2019?
The Maori Land Court proceeding is wider in scope than the High Court proceeding. The focus of the High Court proceeding is to return the land formerly owned by the Trust at Shelly Bay to iwi ownership. Reflecting this, the High Court proceeding challenges the sale of three blocks of land at Shelly Bay to SBIL and the option to purchase a fourth block of land at Shelly Bay entered into between SBIL and TKLP/the Trustees.
The Maori Land Court application focuses on the management of iwi assets by the Trustees. However, as part of this broader enquiry, the Maori Land Court will consider the reasons for the Trustees entering into those contracts with SBIL relating to the Shelly Bay land.
How can you help?
Mau Whenua is actively fundraising to pay legal costs associated with the litigation.
There are two ways its members and other supporters can contribute:
1 . Donations can be made via Mau Whenua’s Give a Little page.
2 . Mau Whenua is accepting donations directly. A regular automatic payment can also be set up.