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Trustee faces legal action

By Don Farmer

[email protected]

A long serving trustee of Lands Trust Masterton has been chastised and told legal action for defamation may be taken against him for using the trust’s logo on an electioneering pamphlet and for claiming the trust is virtually a closed book.

Chris Peterson, a veteran trustee of 18 years’ service, confirmed yesterday plans to take “disciplinary action” against him came as a bolt out of the blue at a meeting last Monday.

The planned action was included as a late agenda item.

“I only learned of it when trust chairwoman Leanne Southey briefly spoke to me as I entered the room just before the meeting,” Mr Peterson said.

He said the disciplinarian action had been initiated by a fellow trustee he wouldn’t name and although he had “fought hard for my corner” he had not stayed in the room when a vote was taken to chastise him, and was passed.

That vote, according to Mr Peterson, means a solicitor will be asked to give legal advice on whether he has defamed the trust and what should be done about it.

The basis of the row with the trust board is over Mr Peterson wrongly using the logo on a campaign flyer which he acknowledged and was quick to apologise for.

“I apologised within hours of it being raised with me by the Electoral Officer, Warwick Lampp, and e-mailed a profuse apology to all the key people,” Mr Peterson said.

The logo use had arisen innocently as he had used it only to distinguish between his trust candidacy and his bid for Masterton District Council, he said.

The second part of the censure regards Mr Peterson’s claim the trust is not fulfilling its legal obligation to be open to the public and the media in its decision-making, and this he is steadfastly sticking to.

He said the trust is deemed to be a local authority by law and any meeting must be open to the public, with debate only closed off “if it fits one of 13 generally quite narrow and specific reasons set out in the act”.

“Fundamentally my concern is that items such as the percentage of net profit to be disbursed in community grants, the question and justification for funding Aratoi, whether or not to support the library should not be taken in-committee,” Mr Peterson said.

He said he had been “banging on about transparency” for years, something that had not been helped by the absence of reporters from trust meetings.

“I guess the bottom line is I am sick of the board being terrified of the press.”

Mr Peterson said the Trust Board’s decision to seek legal advice regarding alleged defamation may lead to him raising the matter with the Auditor-General’s office or Local Government New Zealand.

An attempt to speak with Trust Board chairwoman Leanne Southey yesterday was not successful as Mrs Southey was unable to be contacted.


  1. I have lost faith in this trust board.
    Any sitting member cant count on my vote. Especially the Chair.
    This election overall is the most non transparent ever.
    And they wonder why people don’t vote. Health board and council much the same.

Comments are closed.

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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