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Government Plans Nelson Tenths Appeal - Before The Decision Is Released

The Government has allocated $3.6 million of taxpayer funds in the Budget to appeal the High Court's forthcoming decision in the Nelson Tenths dispute, even though the Court’s decision has not yet been issued.

“It is incredibly disappointing that funding has been allocated to continue to fight the case, rather than enter into a dialogue about how it can be resolved,” says Kerensa Johnston, CEO of Wakatū Incorporation, which supports the customary Māori owners in this case.

“Planning an appeal before the decision is released risks undermining the process and is a deeply disheartening approach.”

The Budget allocation is designated for Te Arawhiti, the Office for Māori Crown Relations, and follows the $5 million allocated last year to contest the Māori customary owners' claims in court.

This defence continues despite a 2017 Supreme Court ruling establishing the Crown's legal duty regarding the Nelson Tenths land.

“It’s been a prolonged struggle for justice for us,” Ms Johnston said. “It is particularly disappointing that the Office for Māori-Crown Relations, which was set up to foster good faith engagement with Māori, is instead funding legal battles against us.”

Ms Johnston said that the Māori customary owners had expected the Government to honour the 2017 Supreme Court ruling. Over the years, including since the election of New Zealand’s coalition Government, they had sought to meet with the responsible ministers to resolve the case in a principled and pragmatic manner, only to be consistently refused.

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“But, despite the challenges, despite everything that has happened, we still maintain our hope that the Crown will do the right thing,” Ms Johnston said.

“Attorney-General Judith Collins KC is the defendant in our case, on behalf of the Crown. We have requested a meeting with the Attorney-General to discuss a positive resolution of this case, which we believe will be of benefit to all in our region.”


  • The Nelson Tenths case is the largest litigation against the Crown on foot, and likely the longest running property case in New Zealand.
  • It is unique in that it is a private law case being heard through the courts, as opposed to a Treaty of Waitangi claim.
  • In 2023, a ten-week High Court hearing was held to determine matters of remedy and any Crown defences. That decision is expected shortly.
  • For more on the Nelson Tenths, visit www.makingthetenthswhole.co.nz

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