A former trustee of a Far North Māori trust has admitted stealing $1 million with the help of his sister less than halfway through his High Court trial.
Stephen Henare pleaded guilty to five charges of theft by a person in a special relationship and one count of perverting the course of justice this afternoon.
He was convicted by Justice Matthew Muir and will be sentenced later his year.
The change in pleas came on the fourth day of Henare's trial in Auckland.
Henare was a trustee of Parengarenga 3G (P3G) Trust and was appointed with his sister Margaret Dixon alongside five other people in June 2012.
The trust, which helped underprivileged people, managed a 512ha forest block on Māori land in Tai Tokerau District.
The court heard the siblings took control of P3G with more than $1 million in cash assets in August 2012, but in July the following year the fund was left with just $150.
By January 2014 there was only $13.41 left, the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) said.
Prosecuting the case, New Zealand's former Solicitor-General Michael Heron QC told the jury that Henare and his sister splurged the money on themselves.
"They abused their positions as responsible trustees. It's as simple as that," Heron said.
About $600,000 was transferred into Henare's own family trust and nearly $200,000 was moved into his personal account, Heron said.
More than $70,000 was also sent to Dixon's account and $100,000 to her family trust, the court heard.
A further $100,000 was transferred to another trust.
As a result of the depleted funds, P3G could no longer afford to maintain its forests.
The problems plaguing P3G were taken to the Māori Land Court in January 2013 after an application was made by one of the trustees to remove Henare from his position.
But at the Māori Land Court hearing Henare perverted the course of justice when he lied after being asked about the health of the trust's account.
"Dixon and Henare told the court there was a million dollars or so on deposit, in fact at that time there was much, much less - something like $400,000 had already gone out of the account," Heron said.
A further $54,480 was also obtained from the trust by Henare during the sale of carbon credits.
"Sadly when the trust ran out of money in July 2013, Henare sold the carbon credits and transferred money into his own account," Heron said.
Dixon, who was to give evidence for the SFO during the trial against her brother, has already been convicted and sentenced after also pleading guilty to her fraudulent activities.
In July last year, Judge David Sharp sentenced her in the Auckland District Court to 12 months' home detention.
The court heard at Dixon's sentencing her personal gain was $130,836.
The siblings are no longer trustees of P3G.