Supreme Court orders return of NZ-bought tractor at centre of ownership dispute

    The Supreme Court has ordered the return of a tractor that has been at the centre of a dispute involving a Catholic priest.

    Lord Chief Justice Paulsen made the order after a trial in which he heard evidence concerning the purchase of a Massey Ferguson tractor  in New Zealand to help out the family of a Catholic priest in Tonga.

    In his judgement, Lord Chief Justice Paulsen said the  Massey  Ferguson  265  tractor was bought  in New Zealand  in August 2013. It was paid for by Vilisoni Paul Hemaloto and sent to Tonga for Ma’asi Tauelangi to cultivate  his  land.

    In  February 2015 Vilisoni asked to use the  tractor. Ma’asi gave him permission to do so but since  then Vilisoni has refused to return the tractor and has registered it in his own name.

    The decision about who owned the tractor turned on whether it was given as a gift with no strings attached, or whether it had been given conditionally.

    Ma’asi claimed that the tractor was a gift and sought the return of  the tractor and a direction that it be registered in his name and court costs awarded to him.

    Vilisoni denied that the tractor was a gift.  While it was bought for Ma’asi, he claimed they had agreed that  Ma’asi would send him containers of food to reimburse him for the purchase price.

    He said he had kept the tractor because the containers of food were  never sent. Vilisoni filed a counterclaim seeking a declaration that he owned the tractor.

    At the time the tractor was bought, Vilisoni and his wife, Malia Hemaloto were living in New Zealand. They returned to Tonga in in 2015  and were members of Fr ‘Ofa  Tauelangi  Tauelangi’s congregation.

    At some stage, Vilisoni and  Malia  became  aware  that  Fr  Tauelangi’s family in Tonga needed financial  assistance  and  expressed  their  general willingness  to  help the priest  and  his family, Lord Chief Justice Paulsen said.

    On or about July 24, 2013, Ma’asi travelled from Tonga to New Zealand to buy a tractor and take it back to Tonga. He told the court he had previously discussed this with his brother as a way to generate food and an income for his family in Tonga. He had no money for a tractor and was entirely dependent on Fr Tauelangi to buy the machine.

    Fr  Tauelangi told Vilisoni his brother was a hard worker and  needed a tractor to grow  crops  to feed  his family  and sell the surplus in Tonga.

    An initial plan to buy a Leyland tractor from Trademe came to nothing.

    Vilisoni  told the court that  he, Fr Tauelangi  and  Ma’asi agreed  that  he would  buy a tractor  for  Ma’asi  in return for the shipment  of  containers  of crops back  to  Vilisoni  in  New  Zealand  in  late  2014.

    “It is not clear how many containers were to be sent to Vilisoni, who seemed to believe that there would be one or  two  containers which he would sell, keeping enough of the proceeds to reimburse himself for the purchase price of  the tractor and send the remaining funds back to Fr  Tauelangi’s  family,” the judge said.

    Both Ma’asi and Tauelangi denied  there had been any discussion or agreement regarding containers of crops.

    On August 30, 2013, Vilisoni , Ma’asi and Fr Tauelangi went to the Tractor Centre at Pukekohe where they found the Massey Ferguson tractor. Vilisoni paid NZ$15,000 for the machine and new tyres for NZ$1,350.

    The tractor  was  sent  to Tonga  in a  container provided by Maika Haupeakui, an uncle of Ma’asi and Father Tauelangi, which arrived   in   Nuku’alofa   on   November 4,   2013.

    Vilisoni said he returned to Tonga several times between November 2013 and his relocation to Tonga in 2015. He told the court that each time he visited Ma’asi and saw the tractor had been used only to transport material to Ma’asi’s property,but had not been used to cultivate any land or grow crops.

    When he asked Ma’asi about this, Ma’asi responded that he did not have the necessary ploughing equipment to use the tractor to cultivate land. Vilisoni claimed that on one of these occasions he asked Ma’asi about the containers of crops and when he would receive them. In response, Ma’asi asked for more money so he could clear trees on  his property.

    In  early  2015,  Vilisoni   and  Malia  relocated  to  Ma’ufanga. On  or about  February  16, 2015, Vilisoni  went  to  Ma’asi’s  house to ask  if  he  could  borrow  the  tractor  to mow lawns  on  the property  of  the  Noble  Fakafanua.   Vilisoni  did not return the tractor and  registered it in his name. Ma’asi  said  Vilisoni ignored  his repeated  requests for the  return the machine.

    During the trial, Vilisoni told the court that after he took hold of the tractor he bought ploughing equipment. He had been able to cultivate 40 acres and grow enough cassava to send a container to Australia and sell food at a market in Tonga  each day. He employed three workers and paid them with the income generated by the use of the  tractor.

    In his summing up, Lord Chief Justice Paulsen said:

    “Of particular importance is Vilisoni’s evidence  that  if  he  had  not received the containers of food, but had seen  that  the  tractor  was being used as he had imagined,  he would  not have taken the  action he did.

    “This  statement  accords  with  my  overall  impression  of Vilisoni and assessment of his motivation for purchasing the tractor.

    “Vilisoni sought to assist Fr Tauelangi and understood that purchasing   a   tractor   for   his  brother   would   relieve   many   of the pressures placed on him by his family in Tonga. The receipt of containers of food grown using the tractor was not a condition of that.”

    As a result, he found that the tractor had been gifted by Vilisoni  to Ma’asi.

    He ordered Vilisoni  to  return  the  tractor  to  Ma’asi  within 14  days and to  provide  for  a  transfer  or  registration  of  ownership  of the tractor  in Ma’asi’s  name.

    The main points

    • The Supreme Court has ordered the return of a tractor that has been at the centre of a dispute involving a Catholic priest.
    • Lord Chief Justice Paulsen made the order after a trial in which he heard evidence concerning the purchase of a Massey Ferguson tractor in New Zealand to help out the family of a Catholic priest in Tonga.
    • The decision about who owned the tractor turned on whether it was given as a gift with no strings attached, or whether it had been given conditionally.
    • The judge ordered the tractor be returned within 14 days.

    1 COMMENT

    1. Kuo tuʻutuʻuni ʻa e Fakamaauʻanga lahi ke fakafoki ha palau pe tulekitoa ne fai ai ha fakafekiki ʻo kau ai ha pātele.

      Ko e tuʻutuʻuni ʻeni ʻa ʻEiki Fakamaau Lahi Paulsen hili ia haʻane fanongo ki ha fakamoʻoni ʻi ha hopo fekauʻaki mo hano fakatau ʻo ha palau kalasi ko e Massey Ferguson ʻi Nuʻu Sila ke tokoni ki ha fāmili ʻo e pātele Katoliká ʻi Tonga.

      ʻI heʻene tuʻutuʻuní ne pehē ʻe Paulsen naʻe fakatau ʻa e Massey Ferguson 265 ʻi Nuʻu Sila ʻi ʻAokosi 2013. Naʻe totongi ia ʻe Vilisoni Paul Hemaloto ʻo ʻave ki Tonga maʻa Maʻasi Tauelangi ke ne ngoueʻaki.

      ʻI Fēpueli 2015 ne kole ʻe Vilisoni ʻa e palaú ke ne ngāueʻaki muʻa.

      Naʻe tali ʻeni ʻe Maʻasi ka ne iku ʻo ʻikai toe loto ʻa Vilisoni ia ke fakafoki hake palaú kia Maʻasi pea ne toe lēsisita ia ʻe ia ʻi hono hingoá.

      Ko e tuʻutuʻuni ko ia pe ko hai naʻe ʻoʻona ʻa e palaú naʻe pau ai ke ʻekeʻi pe ne foaki ko ā ko ha meʻaʻofa ʻo ʻikai ha toe fiemaʻu ke fetongiʻaki ha meʻa pe naʻe foaki kae ʻi ai ha meʻa ke fetongiʻaki.

      Naʻe pehē ʻe Maʻasi ko e meʻaʻofa ʻa e palaú pea ne ne fie maʻu ke fai ha tuʻutuʻuni ke fakafoki ange pea ke lēsisita ʻi hono hingoá pehē foki ki ha tuʻutuʻuni ke totongi ʻene fakamolé.

      Naʻe fakaʻikaiʻi ʻe Vilisoni ko ha meʻaʻofa ʻa e palaú.

      Lolotonga e pehē naʻe fakatau ia maʻa Maʻasi ne ne pehē ne na aleapau ʻe ʻoange ʻe Maʻasi ha ngaahi koniteina meʻakai maʻana ke totongi ʻaki ʻa e silini ne ne fakatauange ʻaki maʻana e palaú.

      Ne ne pehē ne ne puke ʻe ia ʻa e palaú koeʻuhi naʻe ʻikai ʻoange ʻa e koniteina meʻakaí ia. Ne faile ai ʻe Vilisoni ha fakafekiki ke fakahā ko e palau ia ʻaʻana.

      ʻI he taimi ne fakatau mai ai ʻa e palaú ne nofo Nuʻu Sila ʻa Vilisoni mo uaifí Malia Hemaloto. Ne na foki ki Tonga ʻi he 2015 peá ne na kau ki he kāinga lotu ʻo Pātele ʻOfá Tauelangí.

      Ne ʻi ai e taimi ne mahino kia Vilisoni mo Malia ʻa e fiemaʻu tokoni fakapaʻanga ʻa e fāmili ʻo Pātele Tauelangí i Tongá peá na fakahā ai ʻa ʻena fie tokoní.

      Ko Pātele Tauelangí ko hono tehina ʻa Maʻasi Tauelangi.

      Fakafuofua ki Siulai ʻaho 24, 2013 naʻe folau ai ʻa Māʻasi mei Tonga ki Nuʻu Sila ke fakatau mai ha palau ke foki mo ia.

      Ne ne fakahā ki he fakamaauʻanga ne na ʻuluaki aleaʻi ʻeni mo hono tokouá ko ha founga ke maʻu ai ha meʻatokoni mo ha seniti ki hono fāmilí ʻi Tonga. Naʻe ʻikai haʻane paʻanga ke fakatauʻaki ʻa e palaú pea ne ne fakafalala pe ʻia pātele ki hano fakatau.

      Ne tala ange ai ʻa pātele kia Vilisoni ko e tangata ngāue mālohi ʻa hono tehiná pea naʻá ne fie maʻu ha palau.

      Ne ʻi ai e ʻuluaki palani ke fakatau mai ʻa e palau faʻahinga ko e Leyland Tractor mei he Trademe ka ne ʻikai hoko ia.

      Ne fakahā ʻe Vilisoni ki he fakamaauʻangá ne nau felotoi mo pātele mo Maʻasi te ne fakatau ange ʻe ia ʻa e palaú maʻa Maʻasi kae ʻoanga haʻane ngaahi koniteina meʻakai ʻi he konga ki mui ʻo e 2014.

      Fakatatau ki he tuʻutuʻuni ʻa e fakamaauʻangá naʻe ʻikai mahino pe ko e koniteina ʻe fiha naʻe pau ke ʻave kia Vilisoní ʻa ia ne ne tui ngali ko ha koniteina ʻe taha pe ua ke fakatau atu ke totongiʻaki ene fakamole ʻi hono fakatau mo ʻave ai ha seniti ʻe toé ki Tonga ki he fāmili ʻo Pātele Tauelangí.

      Naʻe fakaʻikaiʻi ʻe Pātele mo Maʻasi naʻe ʻi ai haʻanau alea pehe pe felotoi ki ha koniteina meʻakai.

      Fakatatau ki he tuʻutuʻuni ʻa e fakamaauʻangá naʻe ʻikai mahino pe ko e koniteina ʻe fiha naʻe pau ke ʻave kia Vilisoní ʻa ia ne ne tui ngali ko ha koniteina ʻe taha pe ua ke fakatau atu ke totongiʻaki ene fakamole ʻi hono fakataua mo ʻave ai ha seniti ʻe toé ki Tonga ki he fāmili ʻo Pātele Tauelangí.

      Naʻe fakaʻikaiʻi ʻe Pātele mo Maʻasi naʻe ʻi ai haʻanau alea pehē pe felotoi ki ha koniteina meʻakai.

      ʻI ʻAokosi ʻaho 30, 2013 ne fononga atu ai ʻa Vilisoni, Māʻasi mo Pātele ki he Fakatauʻanga palau ʻi Pukekohé ʻo maʻu ai ʻa e Massey Ferguson. Naʻe totongi ai ʻe Vilisoni ha paʻanga Nuʻu Sila ʻe $15,000 pea fakavaʻe foʻou e palaú feʻunga mo e paʻanga $1,350.

      Naʻe ʻave ki Tonga ʻa e palaú ʻi ha koniteina ne ʻai ʻe Maika Haupeakui, ko ha ʻangikolo ʻo Maʻasi mo Patele, ʻo tau ki Nukuʻalofa ʻi Nōvema ʻaho 4, 2013.

      Ne pehē ʻe Vilisoni ne toutou foki ki Tonga ʻi ha ngaahi taimi ʻi Nōvema 2013 pea ne hiki leva ki ai ʻi he 2015.

      Ne ne fakahā ki he fakamaauʻangá ko e taimi kotoa pe ne ne ʻi Tonga aí ne ne sio ai ne fakaʻaongaʻi pe palaú ia ki he fetukutuku e ngaahi nāunau ki he ʻapi ʻo Maʻasí kae ʻikai fakaʻaongaʻi ia ki ha kelekele pe ngoue.

      ʻI haʻane ʻeke ange kia Maʻasi ko e hā ne ʻikai ke ne ngoueʻaki ai ʻa e palaú ne pehē ʻe Maʻasi ne ʻikai maʻu e ngaahi konga ia ki he palaú ke lava faiʻaki ʻaki ai ha ngoué.

      Ne pehē ʻe Vilisoni ne aʻu ki ha taimi ʻe taha ne ne ʻeke ange kia Maʻasi pe ne hā ʻa e ngaahi koniteina meʻakaí pea ʻe maʻu ʻa fē, ka ne kole paʻanga ange ʻa Maʻasi ia ke fakaʻataʻatā ʻaki e ʻuluʻakau ʻi hono ʻapí.

      Ne pehē ʻe Vilisoni ne aʻu ki ha taimi ʻe taha ne ne ʻeke ange kia Maʻasi pe ne hā ʻa e ngaahi koniteina meʻakaí pea ʻe maʻu ʻa fē, ka ne kole paʻanga ange ʻa Maʻasi ia ke fakaʻataʻatā ʻaki e ʻuluʻakau ʻi hono ʻapí.

      ʻI he konga ki muʻa ʻo e 2015 ne hiki ai ʻa Maʻasi mo Malia ki Maʻufanga.

      ʻI Fepueli ʻaho 16 pe ofi ki ai ne ʻalu ai ʻa Maʻasi ki he ʻapi ʻo Maʻasi ʻo kole pe ʻe lava ke ne ngāueʻaki ʻa e palaú ke kosi ʻe ʻapi ʻo Nōpele Fakafanuá. Naʻe ʻikai toe fakafoki ʻe Vilisoni ia ʻa e palaú peá ne toe lēsisita foki ia ʻe ia ʻi hono hingoá.

      Pehē ʻe Maʻasi ne ʻikai pe tokanga mai ʻa Vilisoni ia ki heʻene toutou kole ke fakafoki ange ʻa e mīsiní.

      Lolotonga e hopó naʻe fakahā ʻe Vilisoni ki he fakamaauʻangá ne hili ʻene puke ʻa e palaú ne ne toe fakatau mai ha ngaahi naunau palau. Ne lava ai ʻo ne ngoueʻi ha ʻeka ʻe 40 mo tō manioke ke uta ki ʻAositelēlia mo fakatau atu fakaʻaho atu he māketi ʻi Tonga.

      Ne ne fakangāueʻi ha kau ngāue ʻe toko tolu pea totongi kinautolu mei he paʻanga ne maʻu hono ngāueʻaki ʻa e palaú.

      ʻI heene fakamāʻopoʻopó ne pehē ʻe ʻEiki Fakamaau Lahi Paulsen:

      ʻOku mahuʻinga makehe ʻa e pehē ʻe Vilisoni ʻi heʻene fakamoʻoní kapau pe ā naʻe ʻikai ke ne maʻu ʻa e ngaahi koniteina meʻakaí kae sio ʻoku ngāueʻaki pe ʻo hangē ko ia ne ne fakakaukau ki aí, heʻikai ke ne fai ʻe ia e foʻi ngaʻunu ko ʻeni ne ne faí.

      ʻOku hōhoamālie ʻa e lau ko ʻení mo ʻeku fakafuofua kia Vilisoni mo ʻene taumuʻa ki hono fakatau ʻo e palaú.

      Naʻe kumi ʻe Vilisoni ʻa e palaú ke tokoniʻi ʻa Pātele Tauelangi pea naʻe mahino pe ko hano fakatau ha palau maʻa hono tokouá ʻe huʻihuʻi atu ai ʻa e faingataʻa ʻi hono fakakavengaʻi ia ʻe hono fāmilí. Ko hono ʻai ko ia ke maʻu ha ngaahi koniteina ʻi hano fakaʻaongaʻi ʻo e palaú ne ʻikai ha meʻa pehē ia.

      Kaekehe ne iku tuʻutuʻuni ʻa e fakamāú ʻokú ne tali ko e palaú naʻe foaki ia ko ha meʻaʻofa ʻa Vilisoni maʻa Māʻasi. Ne ne tuʻutuʻuni ai ke fakafoki ʻe Vilisoni ʻa e palaú kia Maʻasi ʻi loto ʻi he ʻaho ʻe 14 pea ke liliu ʻa e lēsisita ʻo e tokotaha ʻaʻaná ki he hingoa ʻo Maʻasi.

    LEAVE A REPLY

    Please enter your comment!
    Please enter your name here