Sunday, April 29, 2012

Mike Butler: Tribe loses $14.5m treaty payout

I saw this article this morning and it made me reflect on what is happening with Maori leadership overall. The late Sir Peter Tapsell so often said to me most Maori leaders were bloody hopeless at managing anything let alone large investments. The Waitangi settlements have been going on for many years now and I am still looking for how those settlements have made the slightest difference to the ordinary Maori family. The Matakana Island fraud was my glimpse into how corrupt some of these Iwi leaders can be and so it was no surprise to be reading this. 

For the Matakana Island / Ngai Te Rangi Iwi Fraud 

Taranaki tribe Ngati Tama lost all of a $14.5-million Treaty of Waitangi payout it received in 2003 in failed investments. (1) A meeting last weekend attended by about 200 people was given full details of a disastrous string of investments by a seven-member Ngati Tama Development Trust. An emotional Wiremu Matuku of New Plymouth later told the Taranaki Daily News.

The biggest single investment was more than $12.5-million with Australian-based computer software company My Virtual Home Ltd, which is in liquidation with no assets. Other investments included $4.39-million with Tu Ere Fishing Ltd, now likely to offer a minimal return, and $1.19-million with property investment company Open Group Ltd which has no current estimated value.

Ngati Tama, a northern Taranaki tribe that listed 1000 members in 2003, had 74,000 acres of land confiscated after the 1860 Taranaki war. The compensation process for confiscated land proved inadequate for Ngati Tama, who supported Te Whiti’s campaign of passive resistance at Parihaka to 1881.

The Native Land Court ruled in 1882 that Ngati Tama did not retain an interest in two large blocks of land north of the confiscation line. The West Coast Commissions finalised the return of some land, and the Sim Commission of 1926-27 recommended an annuity of £5000 to compensate all Taranaki iwi.

A one-off sum of ₤300 pounds was paid to compensate for the loss of property at Parihaka. Compensation was enshrined in the Taranaki Maori Claims Settlement Act 1944, but Ngati Tama maintain they did not agree to it.

If Ngati Tama had just put $14.5-million in the bank at 3.5 percent they would have earned $507,000 a year, which would have totalled $4.56-million over nine years.

1. Iwi loses most of treaty payout,

tdn white stand
Greg White has accepted blame for the loss of $20 million in Ngati Tama funds.
Former Ngati Tama chief executive Greg White has accepted responsibility for losing most of his tribe's Treaty of Waitangi settlement money.
Mr White broke his silence in a statement to TV One's Marae Investigate programme aired yesterday. The tribe exclusively revealed their near $20 million loss to the Taranaki Daily News earlier this month.
Mr White told the programme he could not be interviewed because he was overseas, but acknowledged that while he was appointed by the iwi board as chief executive of the Ngati Tama Development Trust, he did not follow the conservative conventional approach "and accordingly things have not gone as planned".
"Our waka has hit some bad weather and ended up on the rocks," he wrote.
The choice for the iwi was either to give up or "repair the waka and set ourselves further horizons".
The Daily News has sought comment from Mr White, without success, since revealing Ngati Tama's plight.
Mr White's uncle, Haumoana White, told Marae his nephew had made decisions in isolation.
"He had no option but to admit what he did was wrong. The real question is where is the money?"
Maori commentator Willie Jackson said it was good that Greg White admitted he made mistakes but the tribe now had to recover and set a new course.
He said the tribe's main mistake was taking a "pitiful settlement" and in doing so undermining the future of most of Taranaki iwi.
He said Government support should ensure a high-level iwi plan was in place.
Ngati Tama announced Mr White's resignation at the same time the losses were revealed. Iwi at a hui at Pukearuhe Marae were told that of $19.8m of invested iwi funds, it might recoup $1.5m.
A total of $12.5m was invested with Australian software company My Virtual Home Ltd which is in liquidation and has no assets, $1.9m with Open Group Ltd which has no current estimated value and $4.39m with Tu Ere Fishing, which was offering minimal returns.
The new advisory board handling Ngati Tama's plight is headed by Hamilton consultant Richard Batley.

A long-running dispute over an investment that is believed to have cost a Taranaki iwi nearly half its $14.5 million treaty payout is expected to be settled in the High Court this month.

The decision will put an end to a saga that began some time between 2003 and 2005 when Ngati Tama is understood to have invested $7m in the My Virtual Home Company.

The conflict, between My Virtual Home, which is in receivership, and Ngati Tama Custodian Trustee of Taranaki first arose in 2009.

At that time Justice J Heath made an order in the High Court to stop the Ngati Tama Custodian Trustee company from taking any further steps to dispose of assets of Creative Design and Software Pty Ltd, The Australian subsidiary of My Virtual Home International, registered in New Zealand.

The Ngati Tama iwi comes from northern Taranaki, in between Urenui and Mokau.

The dispute is over who owns source codes and licences, with the validity of security documents given by Creative Design Software Pty Ltd critical.

My Virtual Home is a software programme which helps design and visualise building plans, which can be used by homeowners to make virtual alterations to see how they would look.

Ngati Tama had previously taken out a debenture over Creative Design Software.

It is believed Ngati Tama supplied $7m out of the $26m invested in My Virtual Home.

The total is almost half of the iwi's $14.5m Treaty claim settlement it received in 2003.

Greg White, who stood for National in the Maori seat of Te Tai Hauauru in the 2002 election, is the manager of Ngati Tama Custodian Trustee.

He said he was limited in what he could say about the case because the matter was before the courts.

Mr White is one of seven directors of the company and his father is listed as the sole shareholder.

However, an iwi source told the Taranaki Daily News that some board members did not know about the extent of the investment in the company.

"I can guarantee there are people on that board who don't know about it all," the person, who did not wish to be named, said.

"We've (wider iwi) been left out of the picture."

The source said there had been no annual general meeting for the last two years and there seemed to be confusion over the roles and obligations of board members.

"They're meant to be keeping everyone informed, in the best interests of wider iwi."

It is believed elderly kaumatua within the tribe had met to discuss the investment.

Mr White denied that the board had not been informed.

"The matter is before the courts at this moment so I'm limited by what I can say, but the board have approved the investment.

"We are behind though. I'm not happy with the pace and the time it's taken to complete reports."

He said board members usually represented their larger families and it was up to them to inform those whanau members.

Getting information to put into a report for Ngati Tama was now reliant on the outcome of court proceedings, he said.

The case is expected to be heard in the Auckland High Court, starting on Monday.

The court will consider who owned the source codes in late 2008, whether two debentures were valid and whether receivers of Computer Design Software Pty Ltd were validly appointed by Ngati Tama Custodian Trustee Ltd.

- Taranaki Daily News

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