Honey, would you lie to me?


Today in part two of a special WOBH investigation, we speak to Martin Honey – the real estate agent fighting to save his career and reputation in the face of allegations of unscrupulous conduct.

By Stephen Cook

EMBATTLED REAL estate agent Martin Honey is refusing to be drawn on the question of whether he misled authorities in an attempt to escape punishment for unethical conduct.

Over the past two decades, Honey has earnt a reputation as one of the star performers on the Auckland real estate scene with property sales running into the tens of millions of dollars.

But has that success been built off the back of dishonest business practices?

That?s the focus of a complaint lodged six years ago with the real estate governing body by three men who are trying to recover the several hundred thousand dollars they say they lost because of Martin Honey?s actions.

For the past six years consumer rights advocate Dermot Nottingham, his brother Phillip and friend Robert McKinney have been engaged in a bruising legal battle with Honey which now is being played out in the public arena.

The dispute between Honey, who through Pure Realty Ltd was the former owner of the Re-Max franchise in Royal Oak, and Dermot Nottingham’s company Property Bank Realtor Limited flared up back in 2009 after Nottingham bought a Re-Max franchise previously operated by Honey. Nottingham claimed Honey continued to operate a website with Re-Max branding from February 13, 2009 through to April 18, 2010 while employed by Ray White Ltd. ?

The matter eventually ended up before the Real Estate Agents Authority, who found Honey?s new website did contain active pages which showed current listings under a Re-Max branded banner. But the authority believed Honey had taken considerable steps to change his website and although there may have been some extra steps available to him, they did not believe the error warranted disciplinary action of any kind.


Martin Honey

Nottingham disagreed. He unsuccessfully filed an appeal with the Authority then took the matter to the High Court demanding that Honey face misconduct charges. The High Court found in his favour, referring the matter back to to the tribunal to reconsider crucial evidence or to face misconduct charges. Nottingham is to argue that Honey face the most serious misconduct charges.

The six-year saga is now likely to boil down to a case of ?he said, she said? where Honey?s credibility will be put to the test by three former female employees who have given entirely contradictory statements to those provided to the Authority by their former boss. It is a case of three against one where Honey has been proven to be a liar on numerous occasions.

In the case of one witness, Justice? Susan Thomas stated in her findings that testimony was critical as it ?categorically contradicted? the evidence of Martin Honey ?whose credibility was central… to evidence of misconduct?.

This week WOBH spoke to Honey and asked for his opinion on the High Court ruling. The ruling dictates that Honey, given the weight of evidence of staff that ran the fraudulent website, should face the gravest of misconduct charges. Central to that is the allegation he lied about the fact that the material on the internet was Google cached and that Property Bank Realtor Ltd officers were trying to blackmail him. Honey also falsely alleged that he and his wife were subject to terrorist attack and that people at open homes had been threatened to be killed.

During the READT hearing Honey stated that he could subpoena witnesses but that he did not think that was necessary.

Asked if the decision had ?burst his bubble?, Honey was coy. He said he did not see the High Court ruling as necessarily negative or a blow to his efforts to defend the allegations.

He was reluctant, however, to discuss the specifics of the case or the evidence of Lee-Ann Earlam who claims she was instructed by Honey to load material on both websites.

When asked whether he ?lied? to the tribunal, Honey abruptly ended the call. In ending the call, Honey effectively breached the guidelines relating to answering any media inquiries into whether he or Pure Realty had breached the Act.

It?s unlikely he will get such an easy out when he fronts before the tribunal again to explain the glaring inconsistencies in his evidence and that of his three former staff, who all say he had intimate knowledge of the workings of the two websites.

WOBH?attempted to speak to Ray White chief executive Cary Smith to find out whether the real estate company was still standing behind Honey in light of the court?s ruling but he did not return phone calls.