Our Court Application
We have been working in consultation with our beneficiaries to make our vision for the land a reality. After three hui and a postal vote in which our beneficiaries encouraged us to go ahead with our development goals, we lodged an application with the Māori Land Court.
Part of that application was to change some (approx. 50 ha) of our land’s status from Māori land to general land. We also wanted changes to the Trust Deed that would allow us to have trustee rotation and other changes.
We made the application to allow us to take action on our development plans.
In order to benefit from our land (and in time return benefits, grants and distributions to our beneficiaries), we need a significant amount of money at the outset. This is so we can take part in planning and pay for important infrastructure. Right now we don’t have the money and banks will only lend against a fraction of the true value of Māori land.
If we are able to change the status of some of the land, we can borrow against it. That will let us raise enough money to take the first steps.
Our application was clear, the land is not for sale, and without finding a funding source, we cannot move ahead.
But our application was not just about funding opportunities. It was also about updating our Trust Order including allowing us to:
- Introduce Trustee rotation so we can bring in new talent with experience and qualifications and ideas to deal with the mahi ahead of us
- Update Trustees remuneration to current levels
- Formalise Owners being able to vote in accordance with their shareholdings and by postal vote
- Improve distribution options and set up a charitable trust so we can distribute profits back to our whanau or support iwi/hapu groups and provide education opportunities for our mokopuna
In October 2018 the Māori Land Court declined our proposal, we subsequently lodged an appeal in 2019 with the Māori Appellate Court. This is because we believe the original decision was wrong.
The Maori Appellate Court delivered its decision on 9 April 2020. The Court’s decision was in two parts:
- Firstly to decline the Trust’s appeal of the original decision by Judge Coxhead of the status change application on the basis that the Court did not have jurisdiction to hear the application unless a partition application was lodged at the same time, and
- Secondly to allow the Trustees appeal in part on the variations of the Trust Order subject to further owner’s consultation and to then take these matters back to the Maori Land Court.
Due to the short window of time allowed to lodge an Appeal, in order to protect the Trust’s position and based on initial legal advice received, the Trustees have decided to appeal the first part of the latest decision to the New Zealand Court of Appeal to resolve questions of law. If these questions are left where they sit it will adversely affect any future development proposals that the Trust may wish to progress via the Maori Land Court.
For example the Trust did not submit a partition application because that contemplates a separation into different ownership which is not what the Trust asked for. While we don’t like incurring ongoing legal costs it is important the legal issues are clarified so we can move forward and not waste the 4 years that we have been in this process.
It is important to know that most of the discussion in the Court was on the change in status to general land, but when it dismissed our application it also dismissed the other changes we were seeking that had the majority support of owners.
We have tried to communicate the ideas and potential outcomes to our beneficiaries and to the Court and we want to communicate further on how we can make progress.
The Variations to the Trust Order will be reviewed and reconsidered as we look to identify if there are alternative ways to unlock the development potential of the Trust without access to development funding via securitisation of the land.
The proposed Government post Covid-19 economic recovery packages may open up new opportunities that did not exist previously. Rather than rush into premature owners’ consultation we will take a little further time to explore these matters further and bring back clear and researched updated development proposals.