The Māori Appellate Court has reaffirmed a decision of the Māori Land Court to remove sibling trustees of a Māori land block for failing to properly manage conflicts of interest.

The sibling trustees participated in trust hui and passed resolutions to pay significant amounts of the trust funds for the benefit of family members and to a partner of one sibling.

The Māori Appellate Court found that the sibling trustees should never have been involved in decision making surrounding the relevant transactions, as they had a direct personal interest in the outcomes. Rather, they should have been excluded from all discussion concerning the transactions.

In this case, it was insufficient for the sibling trustees to ‘declare’ a conflict and to then remain in the meeting of trustees, or to have close family members who were also trustees remain. The Māori Appellate Court indicated that the same prohibition applies to the engagement of close family members as employees or contractors of a trust.

This is a timely reminder for trustees of Māori land to properly manage conflicts of interest.

Peter Johnston

Māori Issues Lawyer