Maori Land Court Deplores Secrecy Over Lake Horowhenua
Lawyers acting in a Maori Land Court case have spoken of difficulties in securing full and frank financial disclosure from Lake Horowhenua Trust.
Philip Taueki and Charles Rudd have filed an injunction with the Maori Land Court on the grounds the trust is not complying with its trust order.
Information sought for guardians
At a hearing on 21 November last year lawyer Linda Thornton who acts for Charles Rudd said, “It is difficult for us at this point to conceive of a fair process that doesn’t expose that information to us.”
Judge Harvey agreed and said, “I cannot imagine where a trust of this kind would be involved in anything that must be kept secret, I don’t understand that.”
Mr Taueki’s lawyer Leo Watson said he understood, “all documents to be disclosed…with no exceptions.”
Legal arguments for secrecy
Lawyer for the former trustees Damien Stone argued that legal privilege and commercial sensitivity should be applied to determine, “what ought to be excluded and what should be disclosed.”
Judge Harvey said, “As I stress, Mr Stone, with a trust of this nature I would need to be persuaded very strongly that there could be anything that is secret from the beneficiaries of the trust.”
“Can I add that it’s important for the former trustees own self-protection that they are forthcoming with their disclosures to you as to what activities they are involved with in a voluntary or paid capacity in connection with the lake.”
Judge’s recommendation for ‘transparency’
He said it was, “really an issue of transparency to make sure that all relevant information including bank accounts are known.”
Clinton Hemana who has been appointed sole responsible trustee of Lake Horowhenua Trust by Judge Harvey said, “There are four bank accounts, it is an older account so it’s not within the anti-money laundering system for ensuring the correct entity names.”
“So, there is, if you like a nickname to the account known as the Lake Horowhenua Trust and there are four subsidiary accounts to the lead account.”
Lake restoration projects and funding mechanisms
In reference to at least $2.3 million Government funding provided by the Environment Ministry for lake restoration projects Mr Hemana said, “those projects may be being managed by co-funding partners such as Horowhenua District Council, so the funds might have been received…and then managed by the Council.”
Mr Hemana was appointed sole responsible trustee by Judge Harvey late last year after the Maori Appellate Court quashed the appointment of former trustees due to a conflict of interest by Judge Doogan who appointed them.
Judge Doogan formerly acted for the Muaūpoko Tribal Authority; the judge’s instructing solicitor at that time Matthew Sword had become chair of the Lake Horowhenua Trust and persons active in the Muaūpoko Tribal Authority were seeking appointment as trustees of the Lake Horowhenua Trust.