Trustees of a Taranaki hap trust withdraw from their appointments

Three trustees managing the assets of a Taranaki hap have stepped down, kicking off another election process.
The Ngti Te Whiti Whenua Tpu Trust tumult comes as it awaits the Mori Land Court decision on whether trustees who served during the time former chief executive Shaun Keenan stole $486,000 were liable for the loss.

The five trustees nominated for a new term due to commence this month were announced late last year following an election process.

But Ngti Te Whiti hap beneficiaries learned this week that three of the trustees have since withdrawn their nominations. It was not known why they have resigned.

Andy Jackson/Stuff
In August 2019, former police officer Shaun Keenan was jailed for three years and eight months for stealing $486,000 from his hap. He becomes eligible for parole in June 2021.

* Mori Land Court judge to rule on trustee liability after $486k theft
* Marae plans still in the pipeline following theft as hap hope to reunite
* Former Taranaki cop jailed for fleecing nearly $500,000 from hap, stalling marae plans

The three all served on the trusts governance board during the period Keenan was stealing funds.

Two were trustees and the other was an administrator.

Pauline Lockett, an independent trustee of the Ngti Te Whiti Whenua Tpu Trust, confirmed there were three vacant trustee spots.

Pauline Lockett, appointed by the Mori Land Court as an advisory trustee, said another election process would begin.

Lockett would not comment on why the trustees had withdrawn.

Ngti Te Whiti hap chairperson Julie Healey wouldnt be drawn on whether there had been a call for new trustees.

The hap had only recently learned about the three withdrawing their nominations, and so it was too soon to say how members felt about having another election, she said.

Ngti Te Whiti's dream of building a waterfront marae along Ngmotu Beach was shattered after news broke of money going missing from hap coffers.

Last years election process was standard procedure and happens every three years under the Trust order.

Nominations for the now vacant positions are open until May 3. If more than three nominations are put forward it would go to an election.

The results would be announced in September at the annual general meeting.

A Mori Land Court spokeswoman confirmed there was currently an application to replace trustees before the court.

She also advised Judge Layne Harvey had not yet reached a decision on whether the trustees at the time of Kennans theft had acted unreasonably in their role.

The Mori Land Court hearing held in New Plymouth was closed in December, with Judge Harvey saying he would consider the evidence and deliver a decision in due course.

During Keenans tenure, in the job that he was paid $120,000 a year to do, he ripped the trust off to the tune of $486,000 between 2012 and 2017.

In August 2019, he was jailed for three years and eight months after admitting 46 charges in relation to his theft.

The crimes dashed the dreams of the hap to build its own marae.

A review of the Trust was court-ordered in August 2017 and took two years to complete.

Keenan becomes eligible for parole in June 2021.


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