Test case over lake in March

MATHEW GROCOTT
Last updated 07:40 30/01/2013

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Philip Taueki's quest to protect Lake Horowhenua is going to the Supreme Court in March in a case that could have widespread implications for management of the lake.

An appeal by Mr Taueki to the Supreme Court over two assault charges from 2008 will be heard by the Supreme Court on March 11.

His partner, Anne Hunt, said if Mr Taueki's case was upheld "it will turn the governance of Lake Horowhenua upside down".

The case boils down to whether Mr Taueki, as one of the about 2000 Maori owners of Lake Horowhenua, has the right to use reasonable force to eject people from the lake or surrounding land.

"Lake Horowhenua is privately owned," Mrs Hunt said.

This ownership included the lake bed and a ring of land around the lake.

"You can't reach the lake without crossing Maori land.

"What we have argued is once a member of the public enters into the domain that belongs to Maori they must comply with the laws and bylaws. Failure to do so means they are now trespassing and any owner has the right to remove them."

Mr Taueki's case is being handled pro-bono by Dr Gerard McCoy QC. Dr McCoy filed his petition in the Supreme Court last week.

If Mr Taueki's appeal was successful, Mrs Hunt said there would be "huge implications" not only for the lake but property rights in general.

The case had the potential to set a precedent around peaceable possession and land rights, she said.

It could also mean changes to the roles of the Horowhenua Lake Trust, which represents the lake's Maori owners, and the Lake Domain Board, a government-appointed body that manages the lake.

The case stems from an incident when Mr Taueki had a confrontation with a father and son at the Horowhenua Sailing Club.

Mr Taueki objected to the club's plan to use a 40-horsepower boat on the lake. An argument ensued, Mr Taueki asked the club members to leave the area and the complainants, Tony and David Brown, said they were assaulted.

Mr Taueki was found guilty of two assault charges, with Judge Gregory Ross telling him at that hearing that he did not have the right to "eject" people from the land.

Potentially in Mr Taueki's favour is a Maori Land Court ruling that the Horowhenua Rowing Club and the Horowhenua Sailing Club have "no legal right" to occupy two buildings at the lake.

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- Manawatu Standard

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