Ngapuhi call for forestry trust to get act together

4:17 pm on 8 July 2013

A Ngati Hine leader says the divisions that have paralysed the Crown Forestry Rental Trust are a disaster for Ngapuhi.

The trust - which funds Waitangi Tribunal hearings - says it has had to defer $8 million worth of funding to claimants this year because of High Court action by a trustee, Sir Eddie Durie.

That's forced the Government to step in and fund the first four weeks of the Ngapuhi hearings at a cost of more than $300,000.

Ngati Hine spokesperson Pita Tipene says it's unacceptable that the hearings should be under a cloud of uncertainty because of trust infighting.

The tribunal's inquiry into the northern claims, Te Paparahi o Te Raki, will take 21 weeks in total - making it the longest yet.

Sir Eddie says he has the best interests of claimants in mind and he too wants the matter resolved quickly. He says the key points to be determined are : who decides whether a trustee is conflicted, and who selects the alternate - that is, a stand-in - for the trustee on such occasions.

Sir Eddie says the trust should tell claimants whether it's really prepared to fund the full 21 weeks - or if after six weeks it'll pay only for direct negotiations with the Crown.

Trust chair Angela Foulkes says that's a matter for the trustees to decide, once the trust is fully functional again. She says the conflict, which has paralysed the trust all year, must end.

Ms Foulkes says the major casualties have been Ngapuhi claimants, and it now seems likely the trust will have to go to court itself to resolve the impasse.

Time for change?

Kaikohe lawyer Moana Tuwhare says if the trustees can't work together, it may be time to replace them.

Ms Tuwhare says the lack of funding for the Ngapuhi land claims has caused stress for the claimants.

She says the trust's argument about alternate trustees should have been able to be sorted out in half a day.

Ms Tuwhare says claimants are grateful the Government has stepped in and funded the Ngapuhi Tribunal hearings to this point but it should not have had to.

The three Maori members of the trust are appointed by the Federation of Maori Authorities and the Maori Council, of which Sir Eddie is the co-chair. The three other trustees are appointed by the Crown.

The trust's revenue comes from rent paid over decades by forestry companies for land given to Maori in Treaty settlements.