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.

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