Regional economic development minister Shane Jones is calling for a restructure at fraud-hit Waitangi National Trust before he hands over the cash for a new museum.

Earlier this week a former financial manager, Wallace Tamamotu Te Ahuru, 30, was charged by the Serious Fraud Office with defrauding the trust that looks after the Waitangi Treaty Grounds to the tune of $1.2 million. He has yet to enter a plea.

The charge comes as the trust consults on plans for a new museum honouring the 28th Māori Battalion.

The cost and design have yet to be finalised but in June this year Jones said the Government would provide the funding from its Provincial Growth Fund. The museum was part of the coalition deal between New Zealand First and Labour and is due to open in February 2020.


However, in the wake of the fraud case, Jones said he wanted to see the trust a restructured before he handed over the pūtea (money).

In particular he took aim at the trust's commercial arm, Waitangi Ltd, which was established in July 2016.

''The majority of us had no idea the Waitangi National Trust had this obscure commercial offshoot. In my view this offshoot should be wound up immediately. Before they receive the pūtea for the museum project they need to put their structure through a dose of commercial salts,'' he said.

He likened Waitangi Ltd to the appendix, ''a superfluous appendage you can live without''.

''It's not clear to me what its purpose is. It may have been to separate governance from operations but it's not necessary for a small organisation with limited funding.''

The chairman of Waitangi Ltd, Kerikeri business director Mike Simm, stepped down in June this year. He was replaced by Pita Paraone, a past chairman of Waitangi National Trust. Simm remains on the Waitangi Ltd board as a director.

The current Waitangi National Trust chairman, Pita Tipene, could not be reached for comment.

Jones said the fraud case had proven the importance of good structure and accountability.
Ironically, one of the stated aims of Waitangi Ltd is to improve accountability.


The Waitangi National Trust website says the subsidiary was set up to undertake the trust's business and ''improve clarity between the roles of the trust's representative board and its operational and business functions, to improve accountability and better manage business risk''.