18 Aug 2015

Family reclaim mussel farm

9:11 am on 18 August 2015

A Maori family have succeeded in regaining possession of a mussel farm which they consider their tūrangawaewae.

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Photo: 123RF

The family won the right to the company at Kennedy Bay, on the north eastern coast of Coromandel, after facing challenges in the High Court and the Court of Appeal.

Local resident, the late George Potae, ran the Kennedy Bay Mussel Company for many years.

In 2006, Mr Potae was diagnosed with terminal cancer and set about making arrangements to ensure his family could be supported by the continued running of the mussel farm.

He sold some of his business and leased other parts to Greenshell New Zealand Ltd, which initially performed well but later went into receivership.

When that happened, Mr Potae's family sought to terminate the sale and the leases.

The receivers of Greenshell went to the High Court seeking to block this. They lost that case, but then took it to the Court of Appeal.

In a majority verdict, Justice Harrison and Stevens found once again in support of the family.

In its ruling, they said there was a clause in the original contract allowing the Potae family to regain possession if Greenshell was in breach of its contract, and this would include if it was declared bankrupt or insolvent.

The majority on the bench argued that receivership consituted just such a breach and repossession was the legal right of the Potae family.

Costs were awarded in favour of the family.

In a dissenting view, Justice Miller said he would have found for the appellants.

He said the receivers were not in breach of the contract with the Potae family, since they were continuing to run the company as normal, were seeking to trade it into viability, were seeking a buyer and were paying all the rent that was oweing on the assets.