The former nursery buildings used by Lake Horowhenua's guardian to monitor activity there can be removed next month, the Maori Land Court has ruled.
Work to remove the two garages, in which Philip Taueki has lived since 2004, began in late March before he had a chance to remove his belongings. He successfully sought an interim injunction from the Maori Land Court on April 2 to halt the work and a full hearing was held in May.
In a new ruling Judge Michael Doogan has found he cannot extend that injunction indefinitely.
He has, however, given Mr Taueki until mid-September to remove his property from the buildings and to find alternative accommodation.
The buildings are owned by the Lake Horowhenua Trust, which represents the lake's 1600 Maori owners, including Mr Taueki.
Mr Taueki had been given permission in 2004 by then trust chairman Mark Stevens to live at the site.
However, Mr Taueki had never paid rent and there was no written agreement. "The legal basis of Mr Taueki's right to occupy is tenuous at best," Judge Doogan wrote.
Mr Taueki had argued the decision to remove the buildings was made primarily to evict him and was not in the best interests of the trust.
His lawyer, Tom Bennion, called the decision to remove the buildings "outstandingly bad", with quite significant consequences.
Judge Doogan said that while the trust had some concerns about the deterioration of the buildings, its primary reason for removing the buildings was to evict Mr Taueki.
Mr Taueki had had a number of conflicts with users of the lake and this caused problems for the trust, and had caused division within the community and between the lake's owners, Judge Doogan said.
"It was clear to me that Mr Taueki is a passionate advocate for the restoration of Lake Horowhenua and for the protection of the surrounding land," Judge Doogan said.
"While Mr Taueki's strength of conviction and willingness to endure a spartan lifestyle in support of his vision for the lake can be respected, it is also clear that Mr Taueki's activities have been controversial . . ."
Judge Doogan did not accept that the decision to remove the buildings was "inherently flawed". He also dismissed an application from Mr Taueki to have trustees who voted to remove the former nursery buildings taken off the trust.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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