Wakatu Incorporation is appealing the High Court decision that found it had no legal standing to pursue a case against the Crown for claimed breaches of fiduciary duty, trust and good faith in its dealings with the Maori owners of land in Nelson, Motueka and Golden Bay.
The Nelson-based organisation has lodged an appeal under urgency, asking for it to be heard in the Supreme Court on matters of legal principle.
The case was brought against the Crown by the proprietors of Wakatu Incorporation, Rore Stafford and Te Kahui Ngahuru Trust, representing the descendants of the original owners of the Tenths Reserves.
It has its roots in a promise by the New Zealand Company in the 1840s that it would reserve and hold in trust for Maori one-tenth of the land acquired for settlers in Nelson, Motueka and Golden Bay.
Wakatu Incorporation general manager Ropata Taylor said he was pleased with the High Court's "positive" and "considered" decision, announced in June this year, as most of the facts put forward by Wakatu were accepted.
Mr Taylor said Wakatu lodged its appeal on July 24, outlining the two main areas of the High Court decision it disputed. This included its argument that a private law trust was created in 1845, imposing obligations on the Crown.
The High Court found, in its decision, that the New Zealand Company and the Crown made commitments to the whanau and hapu of the original owners when land for the Nelson settlement was acquired in the 1840s and if a private law trust existed, the beneficiaries of that trust would be the descendants of the whanau and hapu based in the Nelson area in the 1840s.
It, however, rejected Wakatu's argument that a private law trust was created, saying the Crown intended to create a "trust in the higher sense" involving government or political obligations - not private law obligations.
"One area that we want to appeal is whether there was an intention to form a [private law] trust. We think that there was an intention and the judgment is a little bit ambiguous about it," said Mr Taylor.
One of the other reasons Wakatu failed in its High Court bid was because the judge found it did not have legal standing to bring the claim against the Crown, but Mr Taylor said: "If not us, then who has the right to bring the case?"
Wakatu was criticised by other iwi members when it brought its claim to the High Court as they said it stalled Treaty settlement negotiations, but Mr Taylor said the Treaty settlement process was an entirely separate matter.
"They're unrelated. The iwi settlements are a political process and if the Crown is deciding to stall the settlements, that's the Crown's prerogative. We're not causing that," he said. "I think it's important to say that there is widespread support from our community for the action that we're taking. It has been a long journey to get this far and we'd like to resolve these issues so they're not left to future generations to resolve."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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