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Breaking News - 28 February 2017

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:

  • The 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.
  • This 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:

  • The Crown owed fiduciary duties to reserve 15,100 acres for the benefit of the customary owners.
  • 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.