Former trustee of a Far North Māori trust Stephen Henare jailed

4:40 pm on 28 August 2019

A former trustee who admitted draining the bank account of a Far North Māori Trust has been jailed for more than five years.

Stephen James Henare in court.

Stephen James Henare in court. Photo: RNZ / Anneke Smith

Stephen James Henare, 62, was a trustee of the Parengarenga 3G Trust, known as the P3G Trust, when he and his sister stole almost $1.1 million intended for forest management in 2012 and 2013.

At the time, Mr Henare lied to the Māori Land Court about the financial position of the trust, after which an application to have him replaced as trustee was dismissed.

After that he went on to steal the trust's remaining $400,000.

Days into his trial in May, Henare changed his not-guilty pleas and admitted five charges of theft by a person in a special relationship and one charge of attempting to pervert the course of justice - relating to his statements at the Māori Land Court.

In July, his sister Margaret Dixon was sentenced to 12 months' home detention and ordered to pay $5000.

At the High Court in Auckland today, the trust's treasurer Ahjun Ahoy told the court it was left on the edge of a financial cliff, and had to sell cutting rights for more than 100 hectares of forest.

Justice Muir said Henare's offending had a high level of planning that only stopped when the cupboard was bare, with devastating consequences.

"He abused his responsibilities as trustee to fund his own lavish lifestyle while those he was called to serve suffered, and continue to do so."

Serious Fraud Office director Julie Read said the sentence reflected the seriousness of the offending and the devastating effects on the 400 trust beneficiary holders.