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Vindication for sacked Kōhanga Reo trustee

Leigh-Marama McLachlan, Māori Correspondent

The High Court has found the Kōhanga Reo National Trust was wrong to sack a trustee who spoke out about claims of wrongdoing.

Toni Waho. Photo:
RNZ / Leigh Mclachlan

Toni Waho. Photo: RNZ / Leigh Mclachlan

It has been a year since the court case in Wellington in which Toni Waho challenged his dismissal in late 2014.

The trust fired him after he notified the Associate and Minister of Education that there was a list of allegations of wrongdoing in the trust.

He also blew the whistle that someone was trying to blackmail them.

Mr Waho said he was trying to do the right thing.

"My disclosure of the existence of allegations to the Ministers of Education was to protect Te Kōhanga Reo, as was my action before the Court," he said.

"I am still extremely saddened my fellow trustees decided I had brought the trust into disrepute. I am overjoyed by this result."

His disclosure to the minister triggered an investigation by the Serious Fraud Office into the trust's financial arm, Te Pātaka Ōhanga.

The SFO later found no crimes had been committed, however Mr Waho was accused of bringing the trust into disrepute and lost his job.

But the High Court has found Mr Waho acted with integrity and did not bring the trust into disrepute.

In a judgement released last night, Justice Clark said he was unlawfully removed from the office.

"Mr Waho acted not only with a sense of personal integrity," she said.

"..but in conformity with the contractual and fiduciary obligation on each member of the Board."

Justice Clark has ordered the trust to pay Mr Waho his honorarium payments dating back to his dismissal in November 2014.

The trustees of the Kōhanga Reo National Board were replaced by new trustees in 2017.

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