June 01, 2014
FOMA head slammed for Landcorp fudge
The chair of the Federation of Maori Authorities has been criticised for “playing out” a Bay of Plenty hapu to prevent it taking an injunction to stop the sale of a Landcorp dairy farm.
In a High Court judgment released last week, Justice Joe Williams said the action taken by Traci Houpapa in her capacity as deputy chair of Landcorp was relevant to his decision to grant a remedy to Ngati Whakahemo.
He ordered the sale of the 404 hectare Wharere Farm near Pukehina be delayed for two months to allow the Minister for Treaty Negotiations to reconsider whether he should intervene in the sale, and to consult with Ngati Whakahemo about whether it still wants to buy the farm.
Landcorp put Wharere Farm up for sale last year, after saying five years earlier that it was too strategically important to be included in a settlement for Te Arawa iwi, Ngati Makino.
Ngati Makino objected, and the tender was cancelled in December to allow the iwi to make a bid.
But Ngati Whakahemo was excluded, because the Office of Treaty Settlements advised that its historical claims had been dealt with under the 2008 Te Arawa Affiliates Settlement.
Justice Williams says that advice was wrong, because Ngati Whakahemo descends not from Te Arawa but from Takitimu, Tainui, and Mataatua.
Most of the farm lies in the traditional rohe of Ngati Whakahemo, which is led by former Labour MP, Mita Ririnui.
Ngati Makino was unable to make get enough funding to make a competitive bid, and Landcorp went back to the highest bidder in the original tender, Micro Farms Ltd.
On February 27 Ngati Whakahemo negotiator Willie Te Aho wrote to Ms Houpapa advising that the hapu had approved the issue if injunction proceedings if necessary, but it was keen to make a commercial offer in partnership with the Riripeti Timi Waata Lands Trust.
Ms Houpapa offered a meeting with the hapu on March 7, but the sale was concluded on March 3, while Ngati Whakahemo was attempting to get an urgent Waitangi Tribunal hearing on the issue.
Justice Williams says while there was certainly no unequivocal offer to commence negotiation. “Traci Houpapa intentionally fudged the issue having been told by the chair of her (Landcorp) board not to create any expectations about negotiations commencing.”
He says Landcorp was less than transparent with Ngati Whakahemo when the agreement with Micro Farms Ltd was resurrected at the beginning of March.
“While it cannot be said that Landcorp’s actions in this respect were in bad faith, or even lacked good faith, Traci Houpapa’s playing out of Ngati Whakahemo so as, I infer, to avoid inconvenient injunction proceedings before the agreement with Micro Farms was finalised, must now be relevant in the exercise of my discretion to grant a remedy.
“At the very least it must mean that Ngati Whakahemo’s failure to intervene earlier and before the agreement was reached with Micro Farms, cannot be held against them.
“It will also mean that Landcorp should bear some of the cost and risk of the delay that will follow from my orders,” Justice Williams says.
The court will hold a further hearing to check progress before the two month delay expires
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