He’s a former chief executive of Te Puni Kōkiri (Ministry of Māori Development), a former Treaty of Waitangi negotiator, a noted academic and a prominent iwi leader who received a knighthood for his services to Māori, but on Thursday the reputation of Sir Ngatata Love was left in tatters after the High Court in Wellington found him guilty of obtaining funds by deception.
Former Wellington Tenths Trust chairman Sir Ngatata has been on trial in the High Court in Wellington for 3-weeks charged with receiving a payment of $1.8 million in 2006 and 2007 from a property developer which instead of going to the trust, was deposited into his partner Lorraine Skiffington’s bank account.
After delivering his verdict Justice Graham Lang told the court that all of the evidence that led him to his decision was based on written documentation.
Justice Lang said that Sir Ngatata knew what he was doing was fraudulent because he failed to disclose any of the payments made to his partner’s account to the Wellington Tenths Trust.
"Dr Love created an environment in which the developers believed he was acting with the knowledge and consent of the trustees," Lang said. "That was clearly not correct given what transpired."
A former trustee who is now the Port Nicholson Block Trust chairman, Neville Baker, told Te Karere that he was satisfied with the verdict.
“The feeling is one of relief that after four years of the matter being suppressed and a whole lot of speculation regarding the background to what went on, it's a relief that the court has now heard the case, it’s come to its decision, and we should be now starting to get on with doing the business of both the Wellington Tenths and Port Nicholson Block Trust.
“Clearly, I was a trustee at the time and the expectation is that one would've been consulted in regard to the matter of the magnitude of this situation and that failed to happen. So, absolute disappointment of that but also betrayal of trust in terms of leadership of the organisation.
“I had believed at that time that we had a very good relationship with each other and there was no reason for any information to be withheld.”
Mr Baker said this situation has the potential of tarnishing other Māori organisations.
“The Port Nicholson Trust...the charges that were related to us were withdrawn and that was the Crown's decision. Retrospectively, as a trustee, in terms of going forward, unless matters are fully transparent and put on the table then it makes it very difficult for Wellington Tenths and other iwi organisations to operate.”
Knighthood now in question
Questions have been raised on whether Sir Ngatata should be stripped of his knighthood, but Mr Baker said that’s not a decision for his organisation or iwi to make.
“I don't have a view on that because that decision was made by others outside of our control and any decision that relates to that matter is a matter for the Crown or the government to decide.”
Mr Baker said as far as repaying the money is concerned that’s the responsibility of the Wellington Tenths Trust and if they’re willing to bankrupt Sir Ngatata to recover the money.
The judge is due to hand down his sentence to Sir Ngatata on October 6.