A $20 million hole in the accounts of the central North
Island iwi has raised questions about the way settlement
money was used, including whether payments followed proper
process and were adequately justifed.
The Tuwharetoa Settlement Trust has launched an internal
inquiry into investment and spending decisions made after a
$66 million settlement five years ago.
General manager Temuera Hall, in a letter to iwi members,
raised possible court action against iwi leaders who were the
original trustees and saw the settlement through to
The money was part of the biggest Treaty of Waitangi
settlement in history and was dubbed the "Treelords deal"
when signed by the outgoing Labour government in 2008.
The Tuwharetoa Settlement Trust was set up in June the
following year to manage the funds "to deliver benefits to
our hapu and whanau for generations to come", according to
minutes from its first meeting.
But Mr Hall said in a letter to members sent on Monday that
just $16 million was left of the $66 million after payments
to hapu groups.
The payments to the hapu groups are set out in the settlement
In the letter signed by Mr Hall, he claimed the trust had
"lost $9 million of that capital and overspent on other
matters to the sum of $11 million".
Mr Hall said an independent review into "the actions of prior
initial trustees" was being sought and would consider, among
other issues, "payments made to contractors or management
without proper process and accounting for amounts which are
not adequately justified".
It would also focus on $2.175 million lost investing in
carbon farming - growing trees purely for the carbon credits
- and other energy projects.
The letter to members also pointed to $10.3 million put into
Te Whenua Venture Holdings, a company set up to develop a
golf course, a sports academy, residential sections and a
hotel near Turangi. Companies Office records show it went
into liquidation in August 2011.
He said the inquiry would also look at money loaned to an iwi
trust with an interest in the Tokaanu Hotel outside Turangi
"as a result of which $556k [$556,000] remains owing and may
not be recoverable".
Mr Hall told members any legal action through the courts
would have to be balanced against the defence available to
trustees they had "acted honestly and reasonably". He said
the cost of legal action and the former trustees' "ability to
pay any judgment" would also be considered.
The meeting, called for August 23 in Taupo, sought support
for the current trustees to take action.
"The outcome may be that we decide not to pursue the prior
initial trustees in the courts but instead deal with the
matter internally which will allow us to move forward in a
positive way." Mr Hall did not return calls last night.
The trust was established in 2009. Annual reports for the
trust show payments for administration, governance, project
management and professional services went from $1,140,000 in
2010 to $3,700,000 in 2012.
- by David Fisher, NZ Herald
The Tuwharetoa forestry settlement was the largest ever when
signed by the iwi and then Treaty Settlement Minister Michael
Cullen in 2008. The Tuwharetoa Settlement Trust was set up in
June 2009 to accept and manage the settlement which
• a cash payment of $66 million;
• a share of 176,000 hectares of central North Island
about $3m a year of Crown Forest licence fees;
• carbon credits;
• first rights to buy Crown assets.