Board decision tipped to stir up confrontation

A confrontation is approaching at Lake Horowhenua after a rowing club was given "permission" to remain in its building by the board that administers the lake.

But doubts have been raised about whether that decision is legal.

The Lake Domain Board passed several resolutions at its meeting yesterday, including one allowing the Horowhenua Rowing Club to continue to store its equipment in a building at the lake.

However Horowhenua District councillor Anne Hunt said the decision was "illegal" and flew in the face of decisions made last year by the Court of Appeal and Maori Land Court.

"They've passed another invalid decision," she said after the meeting.

Some of the 1600 Maori owners of the lake and surrounding land were getting fed up with the situation at the lake, she said, and could take matters into their own hands.

"There's going to be friction, there's going to be confrontations," she said.

On December 17 Maori Land Court Judge Layne Harvey ruled the Lake Domain Board is not authorised to lease the buildings used by the sailing and rowing clubs long term.

Under the Reserves Act they could allow people to use the buildings for up to six continuous days at a time and for no more than 40 days in a year.

However the domain board had a different view at its meeting yesterday, when it unanimously passed three motions.

The first gave the two clubs permission to continue to store equipment in the buildings until the domain board, which manages the lake, had met with the Lake Horowhenua Trustees, who represent the 1600 Maori owners of the lake.

The second resolution was for these two groups to meet, with the third being that the clubs be asked to apply for new licences to use the buildings.

Cr Hunt said the Domain Board did not have the power to grant new licences as the Maori Land Court had ruled, on December 17, that the buildings were owned by the lake's Maori owners.

Cr Hunt's partner Philip Taueki will have a case heard in the Supreme Court next month where he will argue any owner of the lake has the right to trespass and remove by reasonable force anyone who breaks a bylaw on the lake or surrounding land.

A ruling in his favour could allow Mr Taueki to evict the rowing club and their equipment from the building.

Board member, and Horowhenua District councillor Tony Rush told the meeting that the board had "studied closely the core of those decisions" made by Judge Harvey.

The clubs did not have a legal right to use the buildings but the motions passed yesterday would address that, he said.

"The Lake Domain Board has the right to issue new licences."

The moves yesterday were an interim decision while the board consulted with the lake trustees, something Cr Rush said the board did not have to do, but was doing out of courtesy.

Manawatu Standard