SFO looking into 'financial irregularities' at Waitangi National Trust

The Serious Fraud Office is investigating the Waitangi National Trust after the discovery of "financial irregularities" at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds administrator.

Acting chairman Dennis McBrearty said in a statement that the organisation looked into the issue when it became aware, and that it has now been passed on to the white collar crime investigator, which is making its own inquiries.

"The matter is now with the SFO and we will await the findings of their official enquiry," Mr McBrearty said. "We are unable to comment any further pending the outcome of the SFO enquiry."

The trust was set up by an act of Parliament to administer the 506-hectare Waitangi Treaty Grounds estate with the board to consist of representatives of people directly associated with the site. The Governor General also has the right to be patron of the trust.

The trust's last lodged accounts with the Charities Register were for the year ended June 30, 2015, which showed it cash and term deposits totalling $7.4 million. That year it received government grants of about $1.4 million and a further $2.6 million from community organisations.

Legislation governing the trust board was updated in 2015 to remove Crown representatives as formal members of the board. When introducing amendment legislation in 2014, former Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Chris Finlayson said the board's responsibilities went beyond simple maintenance of the site and that the legislative changes coincided with plans to upgrade the existing visitor services and promote it as a tourist attraction.

(BusinessDesk)

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