I last wrote to you in September 2019. At that point we were awaiting a decision by the Maori Appellate Court on the Trust’s appeal of Judge Coxhead’s decision to dismiss our two applications for:
- A Status change of 55ha of land to general land to enable the Trust to access development funding.
- Variations to the Trust order as discussed and requested in consultation with the owners.
In the intervening period we have all had to deal with the Coronavirus Pandemic and the Lockdown implications impacting across our community on jobs, health, travel and delayed and restricted processes such as tangi, and private functions. With the easing of restrictions life is getting back to a new normal but for many the impacts will remain for months if not years.
The Maori Appellate Court finally 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.
The Trustees have reviewed the decision and taken legal advice and as a result have decided to appeal the first part of the latest decision to the NZ 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. 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 position is clarified so we can move forward and not waste the 4 years that we have been in this process.
In terms of the Variations of the Trust Order these 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. These are changing times and 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. In any event due to the current Government restrictions on gatherings and meetings we are unable to convene a large meeting of owners so we will need to wait until restrictions are lifted.
During the lockdown we have taken the time to develop a new website for the Trust to assist owners with information about the Trust and what we are doing. The website sets out background to the Trust, our development proposals and relevant questions we have been asked. There is also an area for owners to give their feedback to the Trustees. This website can be found here: www.tumukaituna14.nz
You will able to read all of the Trusts applications and the Court decisions through the website. We are continuing to develop the site and owners suggestions on what they would like to see on the site are welcomed.
In reading the Appeal Court decision there are some important comments by the Judges that are worth noting:
- It is the responsibility of the Trustees to manage the land and assets prudently and it would be imprudent of the Trustees not to look for realistic proposals to generate income from the land.
- The Court found nothing objectionable in the Trustees developing proposals to bring to the owners for the use of the land, which may involve the raising of finance and the use of the Trust lands for security purposes where such activities are permissible under the Trust Order. Also where there is doubt or uncertainty, then it is equally appropriate for the Trustees to promote variations to the Trust Order to achieve their aims.
- Owners are entitled to accurate, timely and correct information. We have developed the new website as the appropriate place to obtain accurate, timely and correct information.
- It is the Trustees responsibility to make decisions, not the owners. The Trustees accept that it is their job to make decisions, however they will always endeavour to consult with owners and seek majority support on major decisions.
- Postal voting is an appropriate way of engaging with owners even though this is not yet in the Trust Order.
I would like to assure you that your Trustees are continuing to strive for the best outcomes for our beneficial owners and progress the development of our land to the best advantage of the beneficial owners.
I encourage you to view our website and stay up to date with developments and provide any feedback direct to the Trust.
On behalf of the Trustees we hope you and your whanau remain safe in these challenging times.
Malcolm Short, ONZM