RNZ: NZ’s oldest property claim goes back to the High Court

RNZ’s Kathryn Ryan interviewed Wakatū Incorporation CEO Kerensa Johnston in the lead-up to the High Court hearing. Here’s is RNZ’s introduction and link to the interview.


It’s described as the country’s oldest property claim, and one of the largest litigations against the Crown in New Zealand’s history; the case of the Nelson Tenths Reserves centres on 15,100 acres of land in the Nelson, Tasman and Golden Bay region.


In 1839, Māori customary landowners sold 151,000 acres of land to the New Zealand Company on the condition that ten percent of their land would be reserved for Māori in perpetuity.


That agreement was never upheld. Rather than setting aside 15,100 acres, the Crown reserved less than three thousand acres.


The landowners, now represented by Wakatū Incorporation, has been battling for more than 180 years to have that land returned to them.


After the former National Government refused to consider their claim at the Waitangi Tribunal, the claimants instead took a case to the High Court, as a private law breach of trust case.


The government fought the case all the way to the Supreme Court, which in 2017 found in favour of the owners of the Nelson Tenths.


Since then, attempts at commencing out of court negotiations with the Crown, have not been successful.


This month, the case will go back to the High Court to determine the extent of the Crown’s breaches, led by kaumatua Rore Stafford, on behalf of the customary landowners.


Kathryn speaks with Kerensa Johnston, chief executive of Wakatū Incorporation.