A Ngati Tama tribal leader put former Department of Conservation land returned in a Treaty settlement up for security in legal action even as the total value of his tribe's 2003 $14.5 million settlement was being lost.

An Auckland High Court affidavit signed by Greg White, a Ngati Tama commercial leader, sets out that the land could be used to pay legal bills.

Mr White resigned two weeks ago when financial losses under his leadership came to light - in all the tribe lost $19.5 million.

Only $1.5 million remains, plus 1904ha of conservation land, but there is a possibility that the tribe could once again become landless.


The way in which Mr White came to offer the land as security is complex.

Over several years the tribe had lost $12.5 million in a software venture with Open Group Limited, in which it had shares.

The tribe and Open Group have been in a legal feud over the failure of the software company My Virtual Home.

In January, Mr White gave an affidavit saying any concern in relation to the tribe's ability to meet costs or damages "is unfounded as Ngati Tama has unencumbered assets available to meet a ... claim in the event it is required to do so".

Among other land assets, he offered nine fee simple property titles covering 1904ha relating to former DoC land which is now owned by the iwi but still subject to public access requirements.

Each property title notes the land is subject to the Conservation Act and the iwi's settlement act.

Open Group director David Phillips - who was acquitted in 1997 of three fraud charges involving $13.7 million and one perjury charge after the collapse of his Pacer Kerridge Corporation - said he asked for proof that Ngati Tama could pay after he read an article outlining financial trouble a fishing company half-owned by the iwi was in.

Mr Phillips said legal action was ongoing against Ngati Tama.

A DoC spokesman said Ngati Tama was free to sell the land as the settlement took it out of the conservation estate. New owners would still be subject to conservation covenants, and development is also restricted.

Mr White did not return Herald calls.