The recent mooted sale of the Mangawhai South forest area, around 750 hectares, by the Board of the Ngati Manuhiri Settlement Trust has earned the ire of local Iwi through lack of consultation with the owners.
The Ngati Manuhiri Settlement Trust (NMST) trustees consisting of Marilyn Shearer, John Paki (chairman), Ringi Brown and CEO Terrence Hohneck, negotiated and entered into a joint-venture agreement with developer John Darby. The trees have minimal value but the plan was to subdivide the land into some residential and some commercial lots.
However when a ‘final’ agreement was signed on May 29, Ms Shearer refused to sign on the grounds no due diligence had been carried out and there had been no consultation with Iwi.
“We need to protect what has been given by the Crown,” said Ms Shearer. “Though the sale may well go ahead, subject to any cross-claims, there must be full and open transparency, reports from ecologists, the environmental groups and land valuations.”
Since the signings two hui had been held on the matter, one at Omaha Marae and one at Rotorua to inform interested owner parties. However the Middle Mahurangi group of largely Aucklanders are now protesting as they have not had the opportunity to air their views.
Some of the 900 registered members in Ngati Manuhiri and a substantial number of descendants demanded a clear business report prior to agreeing to the Joint Venture, with many considering that the Trustees lack significant skills, transparency, accountability and integrity to handle negotiations without Iwi input.
At the recent AGM Ms Shearer was replaced as Chair by Paki but still remains a trustee.
Ngati Manuhiri legal representatives DLA Phillips Fox had also raised some concerns regarding transparency of the transaction and asked for a concise summary of last three years trading at the hui, including matters relating to the sale of that particular block of land.
Said Marilyn Shearer: “As Trustees, we are responsible and accountable, in legal terms. In order to uphold the mana and integrity of our settlement trust, we must continue to improve and update the old ways of running our back office. We want a new wave of transparency and accountability. Our members demand it! And I am proud to say we have some bright people in our iwi.”
When asked to comment, the Chairman of Omaha Marae Roi McCabe stated that he was extremely concerned that Mr Paki, Mr Brown and Mr Hohneck had entered into an agreement for the sale of the Mangawhai South Forest area without consultation with the owners. The owners of the land had been unaware that a Joint Venture deal had been signed initially around 2013. He also stated that he had written to J Darby inviting him to meet Ngati Manuhiri before the Joint Venture was signed but received no response. He also voiced his concerns about the legal implications of selling land without consulting the owners.
NMST administers Iwi assets but does not own them. Mr McCabe further commented that the Office of Treaty Settlements (OTS) and Te Puni Kokiri had been contacted about the Iwi concerns but, to date, no response had been received. He further stated that there was significant wahi tapu in the area and there has been no indication from the NMST that these were going to be protected. To date, the contract has not been shown to the people.
INTEGRITY: There must be full and open transparency says trustee Marilyn Shearer.