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High Court declares Auckland District Māori Council election unlawful

High Court declares Auckland District Māori Council election unlawful. The High Court has declared that the 2015 election of the Auckland District Māori Council (also known as the Tamaki Makarau District Māori Council) was unlawful. The declaration was made after an application by Daniel Nehemia, a member of the Ōrākei Māori Committee based in Auckland. The application was supported by the New Zealand Māori Council.

In April 2016, the NZMC removed one of the ADMC representatives, John Tamihere, as a member of the NZMC for misconduct. In October 2016, after receiving a complaint from Mr Nehemia, the NZMC decided it would no longer recognise the ADMC due to election irregularities.

Despite the decision of the NZMC, the ADMC has continued to operate. Titewhai Harawira has continued to hold herself out as its chairperson and to purport to exercise the authority of the ADMC.

The chairperson of the NZMC, Sir Edward Taihākurei Durie, said “This decision is further good news for the New Zealand Māori Council. It supports the Council’s decisions and the efforts its present leadership have been making to put Māori Associations on a solid legal foundation. It also clears up a contentious matter that the Council has been wrestling with for over two years.”

“The decision addresses the legal requirements for elections of Māori Associations. It will be a valuable for the Council in the lead up to the 2018 elections. In 2014, the Waitangi Tribunal was critical of the way that the various Māori Association elections were being conducted. This decision gives further guidance to Māori Associations on the legal requirements and makes it clear what the consequences can be for breaching those requirements.”

The ADMC had originally fought the application, and Mr Tamihere had sought orders that his removal was unlawful. Mr Nehemia’s claim and Mr Tamihere’s claim were joined and were to be heard together earlier this month. However, in May 2017 the ADMC withdrew its defence and Mr Tamihere dropped his legal challenge.

The decision means that there is no currently constituted Auckland District Māori Council. However, the statutory process for appointing a new ADMC begins in only 6 months’ time. “The New Zealand Māori Council’s executive is dedicated to the smooth running of the 2018 elections, and to re-establishing the Council as a strong representative organisation to benefit all Māori in Aotearoa” said Sir Edward.

This High Court decision follows one earlier this month which declared that Maanu Paul was no longer a co-chair of the NZMC.

The full High Court decision is enclosed with this press release.

Phillip Cornegé, the barrister who represented the NZMC in relation to this application, is available for comment on 021 333 439.

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