Former judge Sir Edward Durie is headed back to court in a bid to have John Tamihere take his place on the Crown Forestry Rental Trust when he has a conflict of interest.
Sir Edward cannot sit on two funding decisions the trust has to make but believes the person proposed to sit instead of him risks "skewing the delicate political balance" at the trustees' table, according to an early court decision on the case.
It has been proposed that Peter Charlton should sit instead, but Sir Edward and the Maori Council, who are taking the case to court, say Mr Charlton is more aligned to the Federation of Maori Authorities, which he used to lead, than the Maori Council, which Sir Edward co-chairs.
The council and the federation together agree the trust's three Maori appointees and their alternates.
Sir Edward says the trust's rules require each trustee to have a designated alternate to step into their shoes if they cannot sit. Until now the trust's chairwoman has chosen a person from the appointed alternates. Two people are available as alternates but the third, proposed alongside Sir Edward last year, has since had to withdraw due to other work commitments.
In a High Court judgment, Justice Williams said the Maori Council wanted John Tamihere, a member of the council executive, to sit instead of Sir Edward but Mr Tamihere is not one of the appointed alternates.
The Crown also appoints three trustees, including chairwoman Angela Foulkes.
Sir Edward and the council say the court should interpret the trust deed to mean that each trustee has a designated alternate to stand in their stead.
The three Crown-appointed trustees and one Maori appointee are happy for alternates to be chosen from a pool. They say the issue is just between the federation and the council who have to agree the alternates.
Justice Williams said the parties were in deadlock, and the case is expected to be heard later this month. The remaining Maori appointee, Maori Council co-chair Maanu Paul, is yet to state his position on the case.
However, it has now been resolved that the trust will not consider the topics on which Sir Edward has a conflict of interest until the alternate system is agreed or the High Court decides the issue.
The parties have also agreed that the affidavits of Sir Edward and Ms Foulkes are confidential.
Justice Williams declined to make the Maori Council and Sir Edward give an undertaking about their ability to meet any financial order in the event their case fails. The judge said they were wanting to clarify trustees' obligations and Sir Edward and the council had no personal stake in the outcome.
Crown Forestry Rental Trust funds will pay trustee costs on both sides, but not the Maori Council's.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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