The former trustee of a Far North Māori trust who stole more than $1 million from it has failed to appeal against his prison sentence.

Part way through a High Court trial in May, 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.

The then 62-year-old was sentenced to five years and two months' imprisonment by Justice Matthew Muir.

Henare appealed against that term, arguing that his offending had been mischaracterised as being driven in part by a sense of self-entitlement.


Former trustee of Far North Māori fund Stephen Henare jailed for $1m fraud with sister
Former trustee of Far North Māori fund Stephen Henare admits stealing $1m midway through High Court trial
Former trustee of Far North Māori trust heads to trial over $1 million fraud

Furthermore, the defence said Henare's age was not considered and insufficient credit was given to the consequences of a prison sentence on his former wife, who is seriously ill.

The defence also wanted the court to recognise the impact of Henare's state of whakamā - which some equate to shame - when sentencing him.

The Court of Appeal's decision was given today by Justice Collins.

In the decision, the court accepted Henare had devoted considerable time and energy to returning the land to its rightful owners.

But it noted his criminal offending occurred as soon as he could do so and within the course of a year almost all the Trust's money was gone.

"Mr Henare used the Trust money to fund his gambling and expensive luxuries, such as a corporate box at rugby league games," Justice Collins said.

"In part he did so because he believed he was entitled to treat the Trust money as his own."


Justice Muir had been correct to criticise him for that sense of self-entitlement, Justice Collins said.

"This feature of the case was particularly disturbing and was properly assessed by the High Court Judge as an aggravating factor."

Unfortunately, criminal offending often had a severe impact on the offender's family, he said.

"The impact on Mrs Henare of the sentence her husband must serve is one of many tragic consequences that flow from Mr Henare's decision to commit large-scale thefts."

The court also ruled age was not a special mitigating factor in this case and there had been no guidance on what whakamā actually entailed in this case.

"All we can say is that in an appropriate future case, the courts may be able to explore the possibility of treating whakamā as a unique mitigating factor when sentencing a Māori defendant."


The appeal was dismissed as all features of Justice Muir's sentencing decision were upheld.

Henare was a trustee of Parengarenga 3G (P3G) Trust and was appointed along with his sister Margaret Dixon in June 2012.

The trust managed a 512ha forest block on Māori land in Tai Tokerau District.

The court heard during trial that the siblings took control of P3G with about $1.08m 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), which brought the charges, earlier said.

SFO director Julie Read said in a statement after Henare's sentencing that the fraud "had a devastating financial, social and emotional impact on the 400 current and future beneficial owners of P3G Trust".


"The current trustees are now faced with challenges in the continued maintenance of the forest and the potential future loss of a substantial portion of the remaining assets of the trust."