Storm Clouds Over Lake Horowhenua (Part 1)

( photo by David White)

KIN’s Horowhenua correspondent Veronica Harrod says it could be time for the Crown to adopt a new governing body for Lake Horowhenua.

She says storm clouds are gathering over Lake Horowhenua and could rain down on the Crown unless a Governance structure recommended by the Waitangi Tribunal in the 2017 MuaUpoko Priority Report is established.

Critics of the present structure have been vindicated by a recent Maori Appellate Court decision quashing the appointment of 11 trustees to Lake Horowhenua Trust. This was due to a conflict of interest by Judge Doogan.

Questions about the validity of appointments made to Lake Horowhenua Trust had been raised earlier in the year in court by lawyer Michael Bott who was representing Lake Horowhenua owner Philip Taueki on a charge of trespass signed off by the Horowhenua Lake Domain Board.

The charge was subsequently dropped by the Crown.

In Court, Mr Bott said Parliament failed to make any provisions for successions which vested Lake Horowhenua in trustees.  And he said this omission affected how the domain board functioned because the board is legally required to conduct consultations with Lake Horowhenua trustees prior to making decisions.

He said: “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.”

The Crown’s role

The Crown chairs Horowhenua Lake Domain Board, which is administered by the Department of Conservation, and Crown interests are also represented at the table of the controversial and secretive Lake Horowhenua Accord signed in August 2013.

Other representatives of the Accord include Horowhenua District Council, Horizons Regional Council, the Department of Conservation and Lake Horowhenua Trust.

Potential conflicts of interest exist between the statutory and legislative obligations that the Crown, local government and the Lake Horowhenua Trust are required to adhere to. And then there is a lack of any statutory or legislative obligations governing the Accord.

Charles Rudd pictured at the Lake in 2013

Charles Rudd’s ‘blunt’ view

One of the Lake Horowhenua owners, Charles Rudd, is more blunt. He has  accused the five Lake Accord partners of, “In effect, stamping on the throats of the 1826 – or thereabouts – beneficial owners and the MuaUpoko tribe, by way of enforced alienation and confiscation.”

A certificate of title for Lake Horowhenua and land around the lake was issued for all members of the Muaupoko Tribe who, on the 19th October 1898, owned any part of the Horowhenua XI Block. However, not all members of the MuaUpoko tribe are Lake Horowhenua owners.

The Accord holds private meetings that Maori owners are not invited to and no other agency knows what is discussed or decided in Accord meetings.

Yet, as my next article will make clear, major decisions that affect owners and interested parties are made at Accord meetings.

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