Maori factions in court over rent

Last updated 05:00 19/06/2012
Pukeatua Kohanga Reo
PHIL REID/Dominion Post
IN DISPUTE: The landlord of Pukeatua Kohanga Reo in Wainuiomata is trying to secure rent of $156,000 a year.

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A dispute between two Maori factions over unpaid rent on a Wainuiomata kohanga reo was "remarkable" for its squabbling and lack of agreement, a judge has said.

The Pukeatua Kohanga Reo Charitable Trust has not paid rent for the former Wainuiomata intermediate school property since it opened nearly 18 months ago. The landlord, Lowry Bay Section One, went to the High Court at Wellington yesterday in an attempt to secure rent of $156,000 a year.

Lowry Bay Section One was set up by the Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust to be landlord for the property, which it received as part of a Treaty of Waitangi settlement. Both sides in the dispute are part of the wider Te Atiawa tribal grouping.

Lowry Bay's lawyer, Gerard Dewar, said it took court action in exasperation after 55 attempts to progress the issue failed. Nearly three years ago a deed of agreement proposed a market rent be paid but no lease had yet been signed.

Associate Judge David Gendall said the original agreement called for the parties to co-operate but there had been a lot of squabbling and the lack of agreement was remarkable.

He reserved his decision.

The kohanga's lawyer, Ben Sheehan, said the original agreement was not with Lowry Bay and so it was the wrong party to be dealing with the lease. Also undecided was the rent amount, who should pay expenses and outgoings, when the lease should begin, and how to take account of the kohanga's significant fit-out and improvements.

There was also a fundamental disagreement about who was representing who, when and how, he said.

Judge Gendall said Peter Love, on the Port Nicholson side, had said the kohanga was receiving substantial Crown funding but had not passed a cent to Lowry Bay to go towards the electricity it was using or on rates.

Mr Sheehan said the kohanga had received $1.4 million to improve the buildings and that did not appear to be accounted for in the valuation that was the basis for the suggested $156,000 rent.

Mr Dewar said that level of rental might be "beyond the pale" but the kohanga would not discuss it.

Te kohanga trust's accounts showed it had advanced $250,000 to another party, he said.

"There may well be other things to be said about this but there have been substantial cash resources available to the trust in the relevant periods."

He asked the court to set the rent at the market rate Lowry Bay had established in evidence or to direct the parties to arbitration.

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- The Dominion Post

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