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Judgment: Waho v Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust

Press Release – New Zealand High Court

[1] Until he was removed in 2014 Toni Waho was a trustee of Te Khanga Reo National Trust, a trust dedicated to the use and retention of te reo Mori. The Trust Board decided to remove Mr Waho on the grounds he had brought the Trust into disrepute …IN THE HIGH COURT OF NEW ZEALAND
WELLINGTON REGISTRY
I TE KŌTI MATUA O AOTEAROA
TE WHANGANUI-A-TARA ROHE

CIV-2014-485-11177
[2018] NZHC 1935

UNDER
(in part) The Trustees Act 1956

BETWEEN

TONI JAMES DAVIS WAHO
Plaintiff

AND

TE KŌHANGA REO NATIONAL TRUST
Defendant

[…]

Introduction and issue

[1] Until he was removed in 2014 Toni Waho was a trustee of Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust, a trust dedicated to the use and retention of te reo Māori. The Trust Board decided to remove Mr Waho on the grounds he had brought the Trust into disrepute by going to Ministers, behind the Trust’s back, with allegations against Trust Board members and members of the Board of the Trust’s commercial arm, Te Pātaka Ōhanga Ltd.

[2] Mr Waho says he acted honourably and in accordance with his duties as a trustee. Mr Waho challenges his removal. He pleads, as he puts it, for the protection of the Court. Mr Waho brings this proceeding to obtain declarations that he did not bring the Trust into disrepute and that his removal was unlawful. Mr Waho also seeks an order for payment of the honorarium he would have received but for his removal.

[3] The key issue for my determination is whether there is an objectively supportable factual foundation for the Trust Board’s assertion that Mr Waho brought the Trust into disrepute.

[…]

Outcome

[103] The evidence has satisfied me that Mr Waho acted not only with a sense of personal integrity but in conformity with the contractual and fiduciary obligation on each member of the Board to disclose to the relevant Ministers allegations of serious wrongdoing by TPO and trust Board members, and to take timely steps to address the allegations. There was no objectively supportable factual foundation for the Board’s assertion Mr Waho had brought the Trust into disrepute.

[104] Mr Waho has succeeded in establishing he was unlawfully removed from office and I make a declaration to that effect.

[105] Mr Waho is entitled to payment by the defendant of the honorarium he would have received but for his unlawful removal, for the period 24 November 2014, the date of his removal, to the date of this judgment.

[106] Mr Waho is entitled to costs. If the parties are unable to agree costs counsel may submit focussed memoranda not exceeding 10 pages.

Full judgment: 2018NZHC1935.pdf

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