The High Court has upheld a claim against Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust Board by its former trustee Toni Waho. The Court formally declared that Mr Waho’s removal from the Board was unlawful.

In reaching that decision, the Court has held that Mr Waho acted “with a sense of personal integrity” and “in conformity with the contractual and fiduciary obligation on each member of the Board”. The Board’s decision to remove Mr Waho lacked any “objectively supportable factual foundation”.

In 2014, Mr Waho wrote to the Minister and Associate Minister of Education to inform them of allegations of financial impropriety that had been levelled against Trust. The Board took exception to Mr Waho informing the Ministers and removed him for “bringing the Trust into disrepute”. The High Court has held that the trustees had had a legal duty to inform the Ministers and that Mr Waho’s actions did not bring the Trust into disrepute.

“I am still extremely saddened my fellow trustees decided I had brought the Trust into disrepute. I am overjoyed by this result,” said Mr Waho. “I will be reading the judgment with care along with my lawyers. For now, I just want to thank the Court for its time and consideration and to say how happy I am that I have won the protection I sought through my Court action.

“I have only ever done what I thought was in the best interest of the Kōhanga movement. My daughter enrolled in Te Kōhanga Reo o Te Āwhina in Palmerston North when she was one. For the following 30 years, my family and I devoted ourselves to upholding the philosophy of Te Kōhanga Reo. My disclosure of the existence allegations to the Ministers of Education was to protect Te Kōhanga Reo, as was my action before the Court.”

The trustees of the National Board were replaced by new trustees in 2017. For the first time Kōhanga whānau selected who would represent them on the Board. “I wish the new trustees of the National Board the very best as well as the whole movement,”

“Last, but by no means least, I would like to publicly thank my barristers, Felix Geiringer and James Mahuta-Coyle, for the enormous amount of work they have done on my behalf. They were supported by solicitors Tom Bennion and Wendy Kemp. Words cannot adequately convey my gratitude.”

Read the full NZHC judgment.