Regional | Ngāi Tūhoe

Tūhoe elders’ dispute hits stalemate

The Court of Appeal has knocked back an attempt by a group of Ngāi Tūhoe elders to have the Māori Land Court rule on a challenge to an election for the iwi’s post-settlement governance entity.

Nevertheless, the court ordered that entity, Te Uru Taumatua, to pay the legal costs of Paki Nikora, who led the initial challenge for the Tūhoe kaumātua rōpū.

Nikora’s group, Te Kaunihera Kaumātua o Tūhoe, had asked the Māori Land Court to order a fresh election for the seat on Te Uru Tau held by chair Tamati Kruger.

That court agreed it had jurisdiction but Te Uru Taumatua disagreed.

Te Uru Taumatua (the Tūhoe Trust), is a post-settlement governance entity established by Ngāi Tūhoe in 2011 to receive redress from the Crown for breaches of Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Tūhoe and the Crown reached settlement on June 4, 2013, which was given effect in the Tūhoe Claims Settlement Act 2014.

Now the Appeal Court has ruled the Tūhoe Trust was not a trust "constituted in respect of general land owned by Māori" for the purposes of S 23 6(1)(c) of Te Ture Whenua Māori Act, which meant the Maōri Land Court did not have jurisdiction. The beneficiaries of the trust at any given time were not the beneficial owners of the trust's assets.

The court said the trust was established for broad purposes, including advancing the mana motuhake of Tūhoe, and holding a wide range of assets for the long-term benefit of current and future Tūhoe iwi members, rather than to hold specific parcels of general land owned by the Trust.

Nikora’s group had argued at the Māori Land Court that trust elections needed to be independently monitored, in line with Te Uru Taumatua’s trust deed. Pikora had alleged that rather than accept nominations from marae komiti, Kruger and his supporters claimed to be selected by “so-called hapū trusts which have no legal definition or status”.