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Media statement on behalf of Toni Waho

The High Court has awarded over half a million dollars in costs to Toni Waho for his successful claim against Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust Board.

The Court determined that this amount, which pays costs incurred by Mr Waho in relation to that claim, was reasonable. The judgment records that the Board “outspent” Mr Waho “by a significant margin” with legal fees of over $1.8 million spent unsuccessfully defending the claim.

Last year, the High Court declared that the Board’s decision to remove Mr Waho as a trustee had been unlawful. The Board had become aware of several serious allegations of misspending by the Trust that had never been investigated. When Mr Waho could not persuade the Board to act, he alerted the responsible Ministers of the Crown. The Board claimed that Mr Waho had thereby brought the Trust into disrepute. However, the Court found that Mr Waho had acted honourably and in conformity with his duties.

Toni Waho said, “It is astonishing how much money the former-Board has wasted. This is money that should be going to our Kōhanga whanau. The former-Board knew that I had not brought the Trust into disrepute. Rather than addressing the alleged misspending and improving governance, it chose to attack me personally, irrespective of the cost to our movement.”

“I did everything I thought I could to avoid these costs. I pleaded with the former-Board to go to mediation. The Board refused. I made repeated offers of settlement, but the Board would only settle if I acknowledged that my actions brought the Trust into disrepute – something the High Court expressly found I did not do. I did not think I could capitulate in that way in the interest of the movement. I am truly sorry that that has meant this money did not find its way to our tamariki.

“It came out in my proceeding that many of the allegations of misspending have never been investigated. As far as I am aware, they still haven’t been.”

By 2017, all of the Trustees who served with Mr Waho had been replaced. “The spending on my case regrettably continued under the new Board. They instructed lawyers to fight me at every step, to deny my costs, and to resist my requests that their costs be exposed.”

Mr Waho is glad that the five-year ordeal is finally over. “I wish the Kōhanga movement all the best for the future. I am so very grateful to all of my whanau, my friends, my iwi, my legal team, and all of those who have supported me throughout this time.”

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