Council turns to court over crisis

Last updated 09:34 17/02/2014

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The New Zealand Maori Council has asked the High Court for an urgent hearing in an effort to resolve a trustee appointment "crisis" within the Crown Forestry Rental Trust (CFRT).

The forestry trust, which controls about $360 million, was established under a trust deed and seeks to expedite settlement of Maori claims against the Crown for breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi.

The CFRT has six trustees. Minister of Finance Bill English has responsibility for appointing three Crown trustees while the Maori Council and the Federation of Maori Authorities jointly appoint three Maori trustees.

In the urgent-hearing application, Maori Council representatives on the trust - former High Court judge Sir Eddie Durie and Maanu Paul - said they considered the trust was in crisis.

The two men said the Crown trustees, chairwoman Angela Foulkes, Rakihia Tau and John Wilson, would not work alongside newly elected Maori-appointed trustee Neville Baker.

The Crown appointees were awaiting confirmation of Baker's appointment in writing from the chairwoman of the Federation of Maori Authorities (FOMA), Traci Houpapa.

But Durie and Paul said Baker had been appointed by due process and, until the wrangle was resolved, the trust was unable to conduct any business.

The appointment of Baker - who is chairman of the Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust - followed a meeting in Lower Hutt on February 8 at which the CFRT's appointments panel removed Mangatu Incorporation chairman Alan Haronga as a Maori-appointed trustee.

Foulkes said there was clearly disagreement between the Maori Council and FOMA regarding the appointment of Maori trustees.

She received a letter from FOMA last Monday, which made it clear there was a lack of agreement over Baker's appointment.

Because of that, when Durie and Paul made it clear they wanted Baker to attend last Tuesday's meeting of trustees in Wellington, Foulkes postponed the meeting.

The High Court is expected to consider the issue at an in chambers hearing in Wellington today. 

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