Waitomo tourism bid dismissed
A request for Waitomo’s tourism operation to benefit individual descendants of caves explorer Tanetinorau Opatai rather than trusts has failed.
Maori Land Court Judge Stephanie Milroy dismissed the application from Norman Tane, a descendant of Tanetinorau Opatai, and Adrian Martin, descended from one of the area’s original, land owners, in a reserve judgement released recently.
The judgement means the Ruapuha Uekaha Hapu Trust will be able to distribute eight years worth of tourism proceeds paid to it by Waitomo Caves tourism operator Tourism Holdings Ltd after it has come up with a new trust order within six months.
Before Tane and Martin lodged their application, eight years ago, Ruapuha Uekaha Hapu Trust distributed between $700,000 and $800,000 a year among four whanau trusts. But a court order meant distribution was put on hold until the case was resolved.
Waitomo Caves Hotel owner Tanetinorau Opatai Trust received 51 per cent of the tourism cash before it was put on hold, but was forced to hold off on a multi million dollar revamp of the 1908 hotel until the case was resolved.
Since then the hotel has come under the management of Taharoa Tourism which, according to general manager Brent Coffey, had begun refurbishing the building in June 2014.
A further 24 per cent was distributed to the Haami Haereiti Trust and 12.5 per cent each to the Te Riutoto and Te Whatakaraka trusts.
In dismissing Tane and Martin’s application Judge Milroy ordered the Ruapuha Uekaha Hapu Trust to develop a draft ahu whenua trust order with comprehensive provisions.
An ahu whenua trust, the Maori Land Court web page said, was the most common Maori land trust. The purpose of an ahu whe- nua trust is to promote the use and administration of the land in the interest of the landowners. These trusts are often used for commercial purposes. This is a land management trust and involves whole blocks of land.
‘‘The trustees are to consult with the beneficiaries to develop a new trust order consistent with the vision statement and strategic plan set out by the Ruapuha Uekaha Hapu Trust trustees,’’ Judge Milroy said.
‘‘There is to be no amendment to the class of beneficiary or beneficial entitlement. Discussions should include election of trustees (including rotation of trustees), and the requirement of consent of
The trustees are to consult with the beneficiaries to develop a new trust order.
beneficiaries to significant business ventures or investments and to mortgaging the corpus lands. Other provisions relating to Maori community purposes should also be included for discussion.’’
Judge Milroy said the preparation of a detailed trust order, consultation with beneficiaries, and confirmation of the varied trust order by the beneficiaries at a general meeting, must take place within six months.
She also discharged the interim order against the Ruapuha Uekaha Hapu Trust, provided that no further dividends were paid to the four whanau trusts.
Tane, speaking from his home in Omokorua, Tauranga, said he was still digesting the decision.
‘‘I am not going to make any comment on the decision yet because we are still going through it. We are not sure whether there is a right to appeal.’’
Ruapuha Uekaha Hapu Trust chairman Peter Douglas did not return a call from Fairfax Media.