Reserve status sought for land on expressway route

OPPOSED: Patricia Grace says her ancestors gave much to the community.
OPPOSED: Patricia Grace says her ancestors gave much to the community.

Writer Patricia Grace's application to the Maori Land Court for her Waikanae land to be declared a Maori reservation could delay construction of a section of the Kapiti Expressway.

Grace, author of novels including Potiki and Tu, owns 983 square metres of Maori freehold land north of the Waikanae River, where Tuku Rakau village was once located.

Last year she was served with a section 18 Public Works Act notice confirming "the Crown desires to acquire that part of your land [for a section of the McKays to Peka Peka Expressway]". The NZ Transport Agency's resource consent application to build the expressway was approved by a board of inquiry a couple of months ago.

Grace, who is of Ngati Toa, Ngati Raukawa and Te Ati Awa descent, made an impassioned submission at an expressway hearing before the road was given the go-ahead.

"It is where my ancestors established homes, gardens and constructed birthing units, and buried the placenta [pito] of their offspring back into the whenua.

"It is where they discussed, negotiated and made important decisions for life and survival.

"I do not believe there should be any further alienation of Maori land, particularly sites of cultural and historical importance. We know there are burials on my land . . . our ancestors have given much to this community, let them rest in peace. So little of our Maori freehold land remains in Maori hands."

Her great-great-grandfather Wi Parata lived in and had cultivations around the village, she said. She has applied to the Maori Land Court for the land to be set apart as a Maori reservation.

A Transport Agency spokesman said whether her application would affect construction of the expressway would depend on the outcome of the case.

A gas main runs through the land, and Vector Gas has applied to Kapiti Coast District Council to realign it to make way for the expressway.

Grace's lawyer, Leo Watson, said her foremost desire was to protect the historical and cultural significance of the land. "She sees herself as a guardian of that land and its values.

"She understands there is likely to be an impact on the construction of the expressway, that may be the price to be paid for preserving the cultural significance of her land."

Expressway opponents Save Kapiti and Alliance for Sustainable Kapiti have filed appeals against the board of inquiry decision to build the expressway.

The Dominion Post