7 Apr 2011

Closing arguments made in Latimer case

7:08 pm on 7 April 2011

Lawyers have made their closing addresses in a civil case in the Whangarei High Court involving payments made to prominent Maori leader Sir Graham Latimer.

The plaintiff, Northland's Te Uri o Hau Trust, wants to recover two payments of nearly $250,000 each made to Sir Graham and another trustee, Russell Kemp, for consultancy work.

The payments were made by joint venture company Te Arai Coastal Lands Ltd, set up to develop Te Uri o Hau land near Mangawhai.

Te Uri o Hau's lawyer Howard Thompson said Sir Graham did not tell the company's parent trust about the payments at the time despite being its chairman.

Mr Thompson said honest people would not have kept quiet about the payments and Sir Graham and Mr Kemp had breached their duties as trustees.

Mr Thompson told the court that Sir Graham and Mr Kemp were appointed to the joint venture company to look after the interests of Te Uri o Hau beneficiaries, but had put their own interests ahead of those duties.

But the defence argued that the payments were legitimate recompense for work done over several years.

Lawyer Nicholas Russell said Te Uri o Hau appointed Sir Graham and Mr Kemp as directors of Te Arai Coastal Lands - not because they were trustees - but because they had the skills needed for the job.

He said the majority-shareholder, Queenstown developer New Zealand Land Trust, entered into the joint venture on the expectation that Sir Graham and Mr Kemp would be directors and would be paid for their work.

Mr Russell said Sir Graham and Mr Kemp had made no attempt to conceal the payments, but had left it to the manager of the joint venture to disclose them.

He said the trust had ceded control to the joint venture company and it was difficult to see how it could then claim that payments made by that company were somehow a breach of rights, or trust.