In exceptional cases, the Māori Land Court will allow beneficiaries to withdraw their interests from an Ahu Whenua Trust. When deciding if Māori land interests can be removed, the Court must take into account:

1.    A change of mind is insufficient, unless there is no opposition;
2.    Termination should not occur if it would cause detriment, or unreasonable disadvantage, to affected                  parties;
3.    Evidence of a trust failing to adhere to their terms and core duties may provide a sufficient reason.

In a recent case the Trustees of a Trust failed to open a bank account or hold any meetings over four years, despite agreeing to do so at a Court-supervised hui.

The beneficiaries asked the Court to partially terminate the trust and remove their land interests.

The Court considered the purposes of the trust, whether there was consent between the Trustees and Beneficiaries, impact of a partial termination, and the conduct of the Trustees.

The Court held that it was seriously concerned that the Trustees failed to carry out their roles for four years, and as a result partially terminated the trust. The Beneficiaries’ interests were removed from the Trust, so that they could manage them personally.

The Court will also decide at a later date whether the existing Trustees should be removed and the entire Trust be terminated.

When administering an Ahu Whenua Trust, it is important that Trustees carry out their duties properly, and in a timely manner, to ensure that the Trust operates effectively and in the interests of all beneficiaries.

If there are concerns about the operation of an Ahu Whenua Trust, it is wise to consult a professional experienced in the area.

Peter Johnston