The Māori Land Court has recently granted an application for an interim injunction, prohibiting the Trustees of a Māori Reservation from holding their Annual General Meeting until they meet a series of requirements given to them by the Court.

In granting the interim injunction the Court was concerned that the Trustees had misunderstood their responsibilities, including the duty to get proper legal advice when significant decisions are going to be made.  In this case the Trustees had made a decision to change the voting requirements for the upcoming AGM based on advice received from staff of the Māori Land Court. 

The Court noted that relying on advice from staff of the Māori Land Court when making significant decisions was a serious error of judgment, when all Trustees should have been aware that adopting that advice would naturally create serious issues for some beneficiaries.

The Court was also concerned that the Trustees had:

  •          Not placed the AGM advertisement on their Trust Facebook page as they had resolved to do; and
  •          Failed to arrange an online platform for an AGM in a Covid context, when it seemed that there were                  options available for this to happen.

The consequences for the Trust were significant. As part of the decision the Court directed that the Trust file a report:

  •          Proposing a new date for the AGM;
  •          Providing a draft revised advertisement (noting that the Court will determine the voting eligibility                        requirements for the AGM);
  •          Providing an advertisement plan confirming where notices will be placed; and
  •          Providing options for beneficiaries to attend the AGM by Zoom or similar means.

The Trustees were also directed by the Court to:

  •          Place a notice on their Trust Facebook page and send emails to beneficiaries advising of the                                postponement of the AGM;
  •          Send a copy of the Court’s decision to as many beneficiaries as possible, so that they are clear as to                   why the AGM was postponed.

When making significant decisions it is wise that Trustees of Māori Land Trusts speak with a professional experienced in the area.  Failure to do so can result not only in additional costs and expenses, but also significant reputational damage.