High Court sides with Toni Waho in Kōhanga Trust case

By Te Ao Māori News

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 in 2014 was unlawful and that there was no 'factual foundation' that Mr Waho had 'brought the Trust into disrepute' over misspending allegations.

Waho’s lawyer, Felix Geiringer says, "The judge doesn't just find that the removal was unlawful on some technicality- she upholds Mr Waho's actions. She says that he acted honourably and in accordance with his duties."

In 2014,  Waho wrote to the Minister and Associate Minister of Education to inform them of the allegations of financial impropriety levelled against the Trust.

The Board removed him for bringing the Trust into disrepute. 

But the High Court has held that the trustees had had a legal duty to inform the ministers.

Geiringer says, "When he did that not only was doing the right thing.  He was doing what the Trustees were legally obliged to do." 

Waho was not willing to speak to media in person today.  However, in a statement from his lawyer Waho said he was ‘overjoyed’ by the result but was still saddened that his fellow trustees decided that he had brought the Trust into disrepute.

“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.”

Te Kāea reached out to Te Kōhanga Reo however their office told Te Kāea they were unable to comment.

It is estimated Waho will be entitled to over $100,000 for the sum he would have received between the date of his removal from the board until the determination of his claim.