Call to halt trust elections for SFO inquiry

TIM DONOGHUE
GENERAL REPORTER
Last updated 05:00 28/08/2012
Ngatata Love
Maarten Holl/ FAIRFAX NZ
SCANDAL: Ngatata Love has stood down from a chairmanship while an investigation into financial dealings at the Tenths Trust is underway.

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Elections to the Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust could be under threat because Sir Ngatata Love is one of the candidates.

Maraea Ropata, a representative of Te Atiawa, has written to the acting chairman of the trust, asking him to stop the elections while the Serious Fraud Office continues its investigation into the Wellington Tenths Trust, chaired by Sir Ngatata.

She also wants the SFO to extend its investigation to the Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust, the Palmerston North Maori Reserve Trust, and the Wharewaka Trust, all of which are also chaired by Sir Ngatata.

Mrs Ropata, of Lower Hutt, says in her letter to PNBST chairman Mahara Okeroa that the trust deed states no trustee must bring it into disrepute. "We request you stop the current election process until the SFO investigation is completed."

The election, which is being conducted electronically and by post, continues until Saturday, September 8.

Chief returning officer Anthony Morton said Sir Ngatata's decision to take leave of absence from his elected roles would have no immediate effect on the process.

"Once nominations have been formally accepted, they can only be withdrawn by formal notice to the trust. As no such notice has been received, the nomination remains valid and Sir Ngatata's candidacy remains active."

There are 13 candidates, including Sir Ngatata, standing for five positions on the trust.

Mr Okeroa was unavailable for comment, as were the acting chairman of the Tenths Trust, Richard Carroll, and acting chairwoman of the Palmerston North Maori Reserve Trust, Liz Mellish.

The SFO is investigating certain transactions connected with the Tenths Trust. SFO director Adam Feeley was also unavailable for comment last night.

The Four Trusts Tenths Trust:

Established to administer Maori reserve lands, mainly in urban Wellington.

It dates back to 1839, when the New Zealand Company promised chiefs in the Port Nicholson district they would retain one-tenth of the total land ceded by them.

Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust:

Established in August 2008 to receive, administer and manage a Treaty settlement with four main iwi, known as the Taranaki Whanui.

Palmerston North Maori Reserve Trust:

Administers reserved lands in Manawatu and is a sister trust of the Wellington Tenths Trust.

Te Wharewaka o Poneke Charitable Trust:

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Administers the wharewaka building on Wellington's waterfront. The building opened on Waitangi Day, 2011.

Contact Tim Donoghue
General reporter
Email: tim.donoghue@dompost.co.nz

- The Dominion Post

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