A long-running dispute over an investment that is believed to have cost a Taranaki iwi nearly half its $14.5 million treaty payout is expected to be settled in the High Court this month. The saga began between 2003 and 2005 when Ngati Tama is invested $7m in the My Virtual Home Company. The conflict, between My Virtual Home, which went into receivership, and Ngati Tama Custodian Trustee of Taranaki first arose in 2009. At that time Justice J Heath made an order in the High Court to stop the Ngati Tama Custodian Trustee company from taking any further steps to dispose of assets of Creative Design and Software Pty Ltd, The Australian subsidiary of My Virtual Home International, registered in New Zealand. The Ngati Tama iwi comes from northern Taranaki, in between Urenui and Mokau.
The dispute is over who owns source codes and licences, with the validity of security documents given by Creative Design Software Pty Ltd critical. My Virtual Home is a software programme which helps design and visualise building plans, which can be used by homeowners to make virtual alterations to see how they would look. Ngati Tama had previously taken out a debenture over Creative Design Software. It is believed Ngati Tama supplied $7m out of the $26m invested in My Virtual Home. The total is almost half of the iwi's $14.5m Treaty claim settlement it received in 2003. Greg White, who stood for National in the Maori seat of Te Tai Hauauru in the 2002 election, is the manager of Ngati Tama Custodian Trustee. He said he was limited in what he could say about the case because the matter was before the courts. Mr White is one of seven directors of the company and his father is listed as the sole shareholder. However, an iwi source told the Taranaki Daily News that some board members did not know about the extent of the investment in the company. "I can guarantee there are people on that board who don't know about it all," the person, who did not wish to be named, said. "We've (wider iwi) been left out of the picture." The source said there had been no annual general meeting for the last two years and there seemed to be confusion over the roles and obligations of board members. "They're meant to be keeping everyone informed, in the best interests of wider iwi." It is believed elderly kaumatua within the tribe had met to discuss the investment. Mr White denied that the board had not been informed. "The matter is before the courts at this moment so I'm limited by what I can say, but the board have approved the investment. "We are behind though. I'm not happy with the pace and the time it's taken to complete reports." He said board members usually represented their larger families and it was up to them to inform those whanau members.
Getting information to put into a report for Ngati Tama was now reliant on the outcome of court proceedings, he said. The case is expected to be heard in the Auckland High Court, starting on Monday. The court will consider who owned the source codes in late 2008, whether two debentures were valid and whether receivers of Computer Design Software Pty Ltd were validly appointed by Ngati Tama Custodian Trustee Ltd. - Taranaki Daily News
News that Ngati Tama has lost virtually all of its $14.5 million Treaty of Waitangi payout through failed investments comes as no surprise to many tribe members. Yesterday Ngati Tama trustees, leaders and spokespeople were staying tight-lipped about what led to the iwi losing nearly $20m in high-risk investments. But for the past 10 months iwi members have been contacting the Daily News expressing concern about how the iwi's finances were being managed.
Records on file at the Companies Office show Ngati Tama had shares in an unusual mix of companies including the Eel Enhancement Company, Original Pipe Traders, Open Group, Ikatuna and My Virtual Home, which is now in liquidation costing the tribe more than $12.5m. Ngati Tama was also a sole shareholder in Ikatuna which had stakes in Septic Solutions Taranaki and Tu'Ere Fishing. Greg White had involvement as a director in four of the companies. White previously worked as a freezing worker, wharfie and roofer, and lacked the experience required for a chief executive role
My Virtual Home, which has been deregistered in Australia, also has a similar stench about it. But what I find unusual is that the potentially unlawful debenture (PDF), and the conflict with Creative Design and Software Pty Ltd., which is the Australian subsidiary of My Virtual Home International, dates back to 2008.
In March 2011, stuff.co.nz reported:
Mr White is one of seven directors of the company and his father is listed as the sole shareholder.However, an iwi source told the Taranaki Daily News that some board members did not know about the extent of the investment in the company."I can guarantee there are people on that board who don't know about it all," the person, who did not wish to be named, said. So for not informing the trust board (or the public for that matter) of the problem, having a clear conflict of interest in at least four companies and making the dodgy investment in the first place, Greg White is this weeks asshole award recipient. So while Greg White was administering the settlement funds, he was ensuring that they were invested in companies he was directly involved in and benefiting from.
Trustees of the Ngati Tama Development Trust were described by iwi sources as autocratic, intimidating, naive and under-qualified. At a hui of about 200 people at Pukearuhe Marae on Saturday, iwi members were told that Ngati Tama trust made various investments totalling more than $19.8m. At best $1.5m of this may be recovered. A Ngati Tama source who attended the meeting told the Daily News, on the condition of anonymity, that tensions were high at the hui and there was much discontent within the board. Chief executive Greg White resigned after calls from four other board members. With him went fellow long-standing board members Peter White and Te Aramau Lake.
The source said that until recently there had not been a financial audit for about six years. The Daily News reported on the iwi's investment problems and legal battles last year. The report revealed some board members did not know about the extent of the investments in a failed Australian software company My Virtual Home Ltd. A source said there had been no annual general meeting for the previous two years and there seemed to be confusion over the roles and obligations of board members. Attempts by the Daily News to contact Ngati Tama trustees were unsuccessful yesterday. The most costly venture undertaken by the seven-member Ngati Tama Development Trust was a $12.5m investment in My Virtual Home Ltd. The company, which produced three-dimensional home design software, is now in liquidation with no assets. The investment was also backed by New Zealand businessman David Phillips through his company Open Group. Mr Phillips and Ngati Tama have been involved in a long-running legal dispute since 2009. Ngati Tama's defence lawyer, Daniel Hughes, told the Daily News yesterday that in the most recent High Court ruling at the end of last year the iwi was successful in defending the case filed by Mr Phillips. Reparation funds to be paid to Ngati Tama would be minimal, he said. Mr Phillips would continue to try to sue Ngati Tama once he had realized the funds for litigation, Mr Hughes said. 85-year-old Te Aramau Lake became the first Ngati Tama board of trustees member to speak to the media about how the iwi managed to lose nearly $20 million in failed investments. Mr Lake, who has been on the Ngati Tama board of trustees since its inception in 2003, said an apology was in order from chairman of the board Stephen White and his son and chief executive, Greg White. "Nobody has said sorry as yet," Mr Lake said.
CHECK THIS [ VIDEO ]:
Greg White despite numerous attempts since a hui on Saturday at Pukearuhe Marae where members heard about how virtually all of the iwi's 2003 Treaty of Waitangi payout of $14.5m had been lost in high-risk investments has somewhatr disappeared. Stephen White had failed to acknowledge the devastating circumstances the iwi was in, Mr Lake said. "The chairman of the board wouldn't admit there was a loss. There was no sign of compassion or whatever." chairman of the board Stephen White and his son and chief executive, Greg White.
During the hui, Mr Lake and fellow board member Peter White resigned from their positions because they felt it was time to see fresh faces on the board, Mr Lake said. Greg White also resigned as chief executive after coming under pressure from the advisory board which is now investigating Ngati Tama's financial collapse, Mr Lake said. Mr White was initially elected into the position of chief executive largely through a dynasty process, Mr Lake said. Mr White previously worked as a freezing worker, wharfie and roofer, and lacked the experience required for a chief executive role, Mr Lake said. Mr White often proved elusive during his time as chief executive. "We had a hell of a job tracking him down when he was our manager," Mr Lake said. The last Mr Lake knew, Mr White's chief executive salary was $70,000 but that might have climbed in recent years. Records on file at the Companies Office show Ngati Tama had shares in an unusual mix of companies including the Eel Enhancement Company, Original Pipe Traders, Open Group, Ikatuna and My Virtual Home, which is now in liquidation costing the tribe more than $12.5m. If Ngati Tama had just put $14.5-million in the bank at 3.5 percent they would have earned $507,000 a year, which would have totalled $4.56-million over nine years.
Ngati Tama was also a sole shareholder in Ikatuna which had stakes in Septic Solutions Taranaki and Tu'Ere Fishing. Greg White was involvement as a director in four of the companies.
Mr Lake said the board was too lenient at times in allowing iwi money to be invested. "I think we have to take some blame on that. "There were things done and said where we never really had a handle on it at all." Ad Feedback Attorney-General Chris Finlayson said it was a very sad situation Ngati Tama were in. The Crown left iwi to shape their own destiny following any settlement payment, Mr Finlayson said. "Any ongoing involvement of the Crown in iwi decision-making is a return to a very paternalistic period in our past. "It also undermines the concept of full and final settlement, by suggesting the Crown has an ongoing role as guarantor," Mr Finlayson said.
FEB 2016 Former National Party candidate Greg White was the iwi's negotiator of that settlement, but he was also chief executive when it lost millions of dollars in bad investments. He shows little remorse. Greg White was the lowest polling of eight candidates who stood for seven seats on Te Runanga o Ngati Tama, getting just 89 votes but he should have got nothing for what he did to his people.