Family taking land claim to court

CATHIE BELL
Last updated 13:52 03/02/2014

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A family which owned farmland taken by the Government to build RNZAF Base Woodbourne have gone to court to stop the land being included in a Treaty of Waitangi settlement.

The Te Tau Ihu Claims Settlement Bill would transfer ownership of Woodbourne air base to Ngati Apa, Ngati Kuia, and Rangitane o Wairau. However, part of the land was acquired by the Government for defence purposes from the Fairhall family.

The Maori Affairs select committee heard submissions on the bill in August, including one from the Fairhall family. In its report back to Parliament on the bill, the committee said it noted members of the Fairhall family opposed the inclusion of this land in treaty settlements, as they considered this would over-ride their rights under section 40 the Public Works Act 1981.

"Fairhall family interests have now commenced judicial review proceedings against the Crown in the High Court regarding this part of the settlement. We recommend no amendment to the bill."

Family spokesman Tim Fairhall, of Wellington, said the case would be heard in the High Court in Wellington on February 17.

"We realised at the time that while the select committee made really nice noises to us, and said we had a serious matter to sort out, they were going to take advice from officials - the same people we've been talking to for the past four years and getting nowhere."

The Government was disputing the family had a valid claim to the land, Mr Fairhall said.

But the Government did recognise its prior ownership of land in that area because it had offered the family part of the golf course under the Public Works Act in 2010 when that land was declared surplus, he said.

In its submission to the select committee, the Fairhall family said that nine members of the family had future offer-back rights under the Public Works Act to a substantial part of Woodbourne airport.

The inclusion of it in the settlement would nullify the family's rights under the act, and it would create a fresh injustice in the course of resolving a previous injustice.

"There is a significant matter of public policy involved as this is the first time that the Crown has included land in a treaty settlement when the Crown has full knowledge that the land is subject to section 40 Public Works Act rights. Up until now, the Crown has only included land in all treaty settlements completed to date which has been through an exhaustive clearance process to ensure it is not subject to section 40 Public Works Act offer back obligations."

The Fairhall family began farming in Woodbourne in 1885, the family's submission says.

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A major part of Woodbourne was taken from the Fairhall family for defence purposes in 1939, and another part in 1947.

The last part of Fairhall land at Woodbourne was sold by the family to grapegrowers in the 1980s. 

- The Marlborough Express

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