Questions about the legality of Lake Horowhenua Trust have been raised by Wellington lawyer Michael Bott who is representing Lake Horowhenua kaitiaki Philip Taueki on a charge of trespass in Levin District Court.
Mr Taueki is being retried next January on a charge of trespassing on Maori Freehold land he is a beneficial owner of after the Crown successfully appealed his acquittal on the charge earlier this year.
In total Mr Taueki has been acquitted twice of two separate trespass charges and, as Anne Hunt’s e-book Man of Convictions states, other trespass charges have been quietly dropped by Levin police on legal advice from the same Crown office that has successfully applied for the retrial.
If the Crown is successful in obtaining a conviction, this means Mr Taueki may well be in the invidious position of having been found not guilty on one count of trespass and guilty on another.
The heart of the matter
At the heart of the charge is whether Mr Taueki can be found guilty of trespass for being on land he is one of the beneficial owner’s of as a descendant of the MuaUpoko ariki by the name of Taueki, the renowned paramount chief.
The Supreme Court granted title in 1893 after determining the bed of Lake Horowhenua and the surrounding land is Maori Freehold Land and the Reserves and Other Lands Disposal Act (ROLD) 1956 vested the relevant areas of land in trustees appointed by an Order of the Maori Land Court.
Mr Bott said, “Counsel has been unable to establish how the current trustees have been appointed to that role as a succession mechanism has been unable to be located from my perusal of documents.
How were trustees appointed?
“The defence therefore requires disclosure of the appointment mechanism whereby the current trustees have been appointed.”
Journalist and author Anne Hunt who recently released her first e-book on Mr Taueki and Lake Horowhenua titled “Man of Convictions” said, “when Parliament vested Lake Horowhenua in trustees…it failed to make any provisions for successions.”
A copy of the minutes from a meeting held on 8 August 1951 to appoint 14 new trustees records that in 1898 fourteen people were named as trustees, “and all are now deceased. The beneficial owners of the trust property (Horowhenua Block 11) now desire appointment of new Trustees and have named 14 persons as being suitable for appointment…each nomination was in favour of a successor of each original trustee.”
Legally a Trust requires more than a “desire” to make new appointments and if a succession mechanism can’t be established the potential consequence is that consultations Horowhenua Lake Domain Board is legally required to conduct with lake trustees prior to making decisions will be effectively null and void.
Consultation needs more than ‘lip service’
Mr Bott said consultation by the Domain Board with the actual Maori owners, “involves more than just lip service.”
Mr Bott is asking for disclosure on the succession mechanism because it strikes at the heart of the validity of the trespass notice served on Mr Taueki by the domain board.
“It appears that the notice was issued by the Domain Board, a body set up pursuant to legislation to administer or exercise a form of oversight over Lake Horowhenua and the relevant Domain on behalf of the public in concert with and taking into account the wishes of the Muaupoko tribe, the original and historic owners….represented by Trustees,” said Mr Bott.
If it can be proved lake trustees have been unlawfully appointed since the original appointments were made, a decision made by the domain board to issue a trespass notice to Mr Taueki may have no legal validity either.