Review of the Deed of Trust for the Rongowhakaata Settlement Trust

Review of the Deed of Trust for the Rongowhakaata Settlement Trust

Information for whānau on the outcomes of the engagement process

Earlier this year the Rongowhakaata Iwi Trust (RIT) provided you with information on the review of the Rongowhakaata Settlement Trust (RST) Deed and invited you to make submissions by the end of June. 

The RST Deed is a legal document that empowers the RIT to hold and manage the Treaty of Waitangi post-settlement assets on behalf of Rongowhakaata. RIT was also established as a charitable trust by another legal document – the RIT Deed. The elected trustees of RIT, therefore, have strategic oversight of both the RIT and RST in accordance with these two separate Trust Deeds. While there are some differences between the two Trust Deeds, the overall provisions are similar (for example, the appointment, responsibilities, powers and liabilities of the trustees). 

The existence of two separate Trust Deeds has created some confusion and additional effort and cost, so RIT also sought legal advice on the possibility of moving to one Trust Deed, post this review. This pānui summarises the outcomes of the engagement process and legal advice.

Submissions and proposed response

RIT received five requests for copies of the Trust Deeds and four submissions. The essence of the submissions and proposed response to these is outlined below.

Submission

Proposed response

Te Kāhui Kaumātua requested that they would like to open the membership of Te Kāhui Kaumātua to any Rongowhakaata kaumātua who wishes to be involved, and were concerned with the specific reference entitling each Marae to appoint two members.

The appointment provision in the RST Deed will be removed and will refer to the appointment clauses in the RIT Deed.  Clause 6.1 of the RIT Deed refers to each Marae being entitled to appoint two kaumātua but it doesn’t restrict membership to just Marae appointees or to a specific number of members, thereby (and in effect) opening up the membership to any kaumātua who wishes to be involved and who meets the appointment criteria. 

The Te Kāhui Kaumātua provision in the RST Deed should be the same as in the RIT Deed.

Trustees should be ‘obliged’ to be accountable to the people that appointed them.

The RST Deed will reflect or refer to the appropriate reporting requirements in the RIT Deed. These requirements are mandatory and mean that trustees must provide an opportunity for members of Rongowhakaata to consider its perfomance and are required to keep marae informed on a regular basis. RIT considers that these requirements/obligations sufficiently meet the concern raised by this submission. 

There is a need to clarify who the spokespeople are for the hapū.

RIT considers that this is a significant matter that requires appropriate action and time to work through. RIT have agreed to deal with this outside of this particular review, bearing in mind that it could have implications for future Trust Deed reviews.

Legal advice on the Trust Deeds moving forward 

There are key issues with merging the two Trust Deeds. One issue is the merging of a charitable entity with a non-charitable entity and the potential implications of that. The other issue is that there are rights under the Rongowhakaata Claims Settlement Act 2012 that apply only to the RST, therefore it would be very difficult to transfer those rights to the RIT, without amending the legislation itself. As such, moving to one Trust Deed would be extremely difficult in these circumstances. 

The two Trust Deeds, however, can be streamlined. Based on the recommendations of our lawyer Spencer Webster, RIT have elected to amend the RST Deed so that it contains its specific provisions and reflects or refers to the RIT Deed for those provisions common to both Trust Deeds. 

Amending the RST Deed in this way would simplify governance, reduce duplication and inconsistency and provide greater clarity on the accountabilities and obligations of Trustees. This was the main reason for exploring the possibility of moving to one Trust Deed in the first place. 

Next steps

The proposed amendments to the RST Deed (outlined above) will be notified by RIT in late October and you will have almost a month to consider and vote on a special resolution to amend the RST Deed. 

A hui on the special resolution to amend the RST Deed will take place in November, at which time the voting will close.

For any enquiries on the review of the RST Deed please contact the RIT office by email: trust@rongowhakaata.iwi.nz or phone: 06 862 8086.

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