Lake row back to court Appeal
Controversy over Lake Horowhenua and surrounding land continues as the renewed argument about the right of its Maori owners to evict people from the area is set to be argued in court.
It comes with lake campaigner Philip Taueki's appeal against two assault convictions from 2008 which is to be heard by the Supreme Court in March.
It follows an incident when Mr Taueki, one of about 2000 legal owners of Lake Horowhenua, confronted two Horowhenua Sailing Club members, objecting to their plans to use a powerboat.
When Mr Taueki asked the club members to leave the domain an argument began during which the sailing club members claim they were assaulted.
Mr Taueki was found guilty of two assault charges and told by the judge he did not have the right to evict people from the land.
His partner Anne Hunt said if the Supreme Court appeal was upheld it could set a precedent around the rights of landowners to protect their property.
She said it could also mean changes to the roles of both the Horowhenua Lake Trust, which represents the owners, and the Government-appointed Horowhenua Lake Domain Board. The Supreme Court case will follow a recent Maori Land Court ruling that the Horowhenua Sailing Club and also the Horowhenua Rowing Club have "no legal right" to permanently occupy two buildings at the lake domain.
Sailing club commodore David Brown said the club disputes this.
Mr Brown said the building was built in 1961 and paid for by club members with support from the wider community and that club members continued to maintain the building and attend to its upkeep. Therefore, it also had the right to remove the building from the site should a new lease not be granted, he said.
Mr Brown said the club would seek legal advice before meeting to discuss the issue.
Rowing club spokeswoman Jo Mason said the club was happy to work with the Lake Domain Board and the Lake Trust.
"We're going about business as usual until we have had a chance to talk with them," she said.
"However, this is a huge frustration for us as a group of adults trying to mentor and engage young people from our community in rowing as a healthy activity."
Ms Hunt said their argument has always been that once a member of the public enters the domain, they must comply with the laws and bylaws. This included the sailing and rowing clubs not being able to occupy the buildings on site with expired and invalid leases.
She said anyone failing to comply with laws and bylaws meant they would then be trespassing and any owner had the right to evict them.
"This place has always been owned by the local iwi and nobody can reach Lake Horowhenua without crossing land that has belonged to Mua-Upoko since 1893," she said.