The Palmerston North Māori Reserve Trust is an Ahu Whenua Trust constituted under Section 244 of Te Ture Whenua Māori Act 1993. The Trust is governed by a board of 8 Trustees, with Liz Mellish being the current Chairman. Trustees are elected by the beneficial owners. There are currently 1,184 beneficial owners with many other whānau through those beneficial owners.
With total assets of $134,874,179 as at 31 March 2023 the beneficial owners have been achieving a very good economic return from their assets. The Trust currently owns a total of approximately 13 hectares of land in central Palmerston North. The Trust has also secured property in Thorndon, Wellington in the company Haukawakawa Limited Partnership as a future development and is quietly determining its prospecting strategy on this traditional land.
This Trust originated through an act of the Crown in 1866. Governor Grey exchanged Te Ātiawa land interests in Wainuiomata, Lower Hutt, with a block of land which is now part of central Palmerston North. Palmerston North Māori Reserve Trust trustees and owners acknowledge Rangitāne as mana whenua.
Governor Grey purchased Lowry Bay section 1 in May 1863 and section 4 a year later. The sale proceeds – 450 pounds – was paid into the Native Trust account. In 1866-67, during Grey’s tenure as Governor, the Palmerston North Reserve lands (18 sections) were bought to replace the Hutt Valley land using funds from the Native Trust account. All this was done without consultation with mana whenua. The Palmerston North Māori Reserve was established to administer this land on behalf of the 22 affected whānau.
The original reserve was around 70 acres but today it is approximately 36 acres. The loss of acres was due to Crown acquisitions and was a key part of the Wai 145 claim in the Waitangi Tribunal’s Te Whanganui-a-Tara me ona Takiwa Report on the Wellington District.
In a consensus decision by the beneficial Māori owners, New Zealand Guardian Trust was appointed as Custodian Trustee (required under the Māori Reserved Lands legislation) along with a group of Advisory Trustees. The Advisory Trustees became Managing Trustees in 1987, 20 years later in 2007, Trustees assumed full management - no longer requiring Custodial Trustee.
The Whakataukī for the Trust was revealed at the Annual General Meeting in 2017 – “Te Whenua, Te Tāngata, Te Ao Āmua – The Land, The People, The Future”. The Whakataukī identifies three important elements which in a very simplistic way are representative of the Trust.
Relationship with Wellington Tenths Trust
Palmerston North Māori Reserve Trust and Wellington Tenths Trust are known as "sister trusts". This is because they emanate from the same parents, that being the land and waters at Te Whanganui-a-Tara. Both Trusts are comprised of ētehi o ngā hapū/iwi o Taranaki who are mana whenua at Te Whanganui-a-Tara. This, along with the terms of land exchange that created the Palmerston North Māori Reserve, shows how closely the Trusts are ‘related’ with many owners succeeding to both Trusts. It is important to have an understanding of the ‘whakapapa’ of the Trusts in order to understand the closeness of the relationship they share.