Scoop has an Ethical Paywall
License needed for work use Register

Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | News Video | Crime | Employers | Housing | Immigration | Legal | Local Govt. | Maori | Welfare | Unions | Youth | Search


Supreme Court on Crown’s obligations to Maori landowners

Supreme Court decision on Crown’s obligations to Maori owners of customary land –
Proprietors of Wakatu & Rore Stafford v Attorney-­General

The Supreme Court has determined that the Crown owed fiduciary duties to the owners of Maori customary land in Nelson, Motueka and Golden Bay. It is the first time that the New Zealand Courts have made such a determination. The decision was made by majority; 4 -­1.

The case goes back to the early days of colonial New Zealand when the settlement of Nelson (Whakatu) was being established.

The New Zealand Company purchased land from the Maori landowners on the terms that one tenth of the land area of the Nelson settlement would be set aside in trust for Maori landowners and their descendants and that pa, burial sites and cultivation areas would be excluded from the sale. The trust was called the Nelson Tenths’ Trust. The Tenths’ Owners claimed that the Crown took over the role of trustee of this estate in 1840 and was legally obliged to fulfill the terms of the sale agreement.

The eventual Nelson settlement was for 151,000 acres, of which one tenth was to be reserved for the Maori landowners. However, the Crown only ever reserved 5,100 acres, significantly less than the agreed amount, and in later years this was diminished further. By 1977 the estate was just 1,626 acres.

The Supreme Court accepted that the Crown never set aside in trust the additional acres required under the initial purchase agreement. It found that the Crown had a legal duty to ensure this occurred because it was acting as trustee.

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading

Are you getting our free newsletter?

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.

Chief Justice Sian Elias stated: ‘There is overwhelming evidence on the historical record that the Crown throughout intended to and did deal with the reserve land as a trustee.’ The Crown argued that at all times it was acting in its political capacity, rather than as trustee and therefore no legal duties applied. The Supreme Court rejected this argument because in this case ‘pre-­existing and independent property interests of Maori’ existed and those pre-­existing rights had been recognised by the Crown.

The Court has referred back to the High Court the question of determining the extent of the losses the Maori landowners suffered as a result of the Crown’s actions.

Kaumatua Rore Stafford, whose standing to bring the claim as a rangatira was unanimously upheld by the Supreme Court, described this is an emotional day. ‘The take (issue) about our whenua has been kept alive by our tupuna and our uri (descendants) for generations. This is the beginning of the next phase of our journey and we are delighted with the result.’


© Scoop Media

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading
Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

Government: National, ACT, & NZ First To Deliver For All Kiwis

The new coalition government of National, ACT, & NZ First will be stable, effective, and will deliver for all Kiwis. "Despite the challenging economic environment, New Zealanders can look forward to a better future because of the changes the new Government will make ... We believe in this country. We are ambitious for it. We know that, with the right leadership, the right policies and the right direction, together New Zealanders can make this an even better country," says incoming PM Christopher Luxon. More


Labour Party: Call For Immediate Ceasefire In Gaza

The Labour Party has called for an urgent ceasefire in Gaza & Israel to halt the appalling attacks and violence so that a journey to a lasting peace can begin. “Along with other New Zealanders we are appalled by the devastation and loss of life. We recognise the grief of communities in New Zealand who have connections with those in the conflict,” says Chris Hipkins. More

PSA: MFAT Must Reverse Decision To Remove Te Reo

MFAT's decision to remove te reo from correspondence before new Ministers are sworn in risks undermining the important progress the public sector has made in honouring te Tiriti. "We are very disappointed in what is a backward decision - it simply seems to be a Ministry bowing to the racist rhetoric we heard on the election campaign trail," says Marcia Puru. More




InfoPages News Channels


Join Our Free Newsletter

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.