9 Aug 2016

Iwi trust was cash poor during disputed property deal

9:25 pm on 9 August 2016

Iwi organisation Wellington Tenths Trust was cash poor at the time of a disputed property transaction, a former accountant who was an advisor to the trust has told the High Court.

Ngatata Love has has his name suppression lifted.

Ngatata Love has has his name suppression lifted. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Former chairman Sir Ngatata Love is on trial, accused of fraud and an alternative charge of corruption over a land development in central Wellington.

The Crown says an Auckland property development company paid $1.5 million into a company run by Sir Ngatata's partner, Lorraine Skiffington and most of the money was used to pay down a mortgage on their home.

Euan Playle, a retired accountant, had provided accounting advice to the Wellington Tenths Trust since 2002, but also provided other services to the trust before that.

He told the Court he was not specifically aware of the $1.5 million payment at the time it was made, but he found out about it later.

Mr Playle said he was also not aware that Sir Ngatata's son, Matene Love, had any formal role in the property development.

However an earlier witness, William Barrass, a quantity surveyor, told the Court he was asked to certify costs relating to the involvement of Matene Love's business, Yellowstone, in the development.

Mr Barrass told the Court he was engaged to provide information to the development's backers relating to whether enough funds were available to complete the project.

He said he had to certify that costs associated with the project were being used for the project, including $1.5 million which he understood was the price paid for the leasehold land.

He said the amount was paid to Pipitea Street Developments Limited, the company run by Sir Ngatata's partner, Lorraine Skiffington, but usually it would have been paid to the owner of the land.

During cross-examination Mr Playle agreed with the defence lawyer, Colin Carruthers QC, that the Tenths Trust trustees appointed a separate firm to handle services relating to the land development.

He said if that had not been done the trust would have had to cover the services payment itself, but it was possible its bank could have supported it to do that.

Sir Ngatata was not in Court on Tuesday, after being taken to Hospital on Monday with a heart problem.

He was to be assessed by a cardiologist on Tuesday and if he is well enough he may return to Court on Wednesday.