Judgement: Proprietors of Wakatu and Ors vs Attorney-General
In a press release dated 28 February, the Supreme Court have
ruled in favour of the Proprietors of Wakatu and Others (the Applicants) challenge
to the Crown land settlement in Nelson and Motueka. In brief:
Applicants argued that when the Crown granted land to the New Zealand Company
for its settlement in the Nelson region, it (the Crown) inherited the company's
promise to set aside one-tenth as reserves for Maori.
promise was subsequently breached to the extent that only around a third (5,100
of 15,100acres) of Maori entitlement was ever reserved. The failure to reserve the remaining 10,000
acres was a principal claim in the litigation.
The Supreme Court
have ruled in favour of the Applicants in the following areas:
Crown owed fiduciary duties to reserve 15,100 acres for the benefit of the
- That Mr
Rory Stafford, as kaumatua and descendant of some of the customary owners, has
standing to take the claim on behalf of the customary owners, however the Court
has held that Wakatu and Te Kahui Ngahuru Trust lack standing to bring the
claims on behalf of the customary owners.
Mr Stafford’s claim
is to be remitted to the High Court for determination of remaining issues of
liability, defence and relief, in accordance with the judgment and reasons of
the Supreme Court.
This matter is
certainly not clear cut going forward, with issues needing to be resolved over
conflicting settlements arising from the Top of the South claims settlement.