Author has another fight on her hands

ANDREA O'NEIL
Last updated 05:00 01/04/2014
TOO LATE: Patricia Grace learned of the possible loss of her ancestral land after consultations had closed.
SUNDAY STAR-TIMES
OPPOSED: Patricia Grace says her ancestors gave much to the community.

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It could cost $16 million for the Transport Agency to avoid author Patricia Grace's land in building the Kapiti Expressway, the Environment Court has been told.

Three days after the writer won a legal battle in the Maori Land Court to exclude her land from the expressway corridor, a separate objection she lodged began its two-day hearing yesterday.

Grace owns a 5770 square metre block of ancestral land in Waikanae that was once the site of Tuku Rakau agricultural village.

Its chief in the mid 19th century was Grace's great-great-grandfather Wiremu Parata Te Kakakura, a Maori MP and one of the founders of present-day Waikanae.

The Transport Agency is seeking to compulsorily acquire 983sqm of the block to build the McKays Crossing to Peka Peka section of the expressway.

Crown lawyer Malcolm Parker said early efforts to buy the land from Grace were rebuffed, and told her changing the route now could cost $16m.

"I think it's unfortunate, but I think NZTA would be paying for their own flawed processes, a lack of consultation in the beginning," Grace said.

Parker accused Grace of obstructing negotiations once they began by refusing to meet NZTA staff.

"I think I've done my best to be co-operative, but co-operative doesn't go as far as saying I want to sell my land," Grace said.

NZTA gave Grace only the options of selling all or part of her land, she said.

Grace would find it legally difficult to sell her land to anybody outside her family, yet the Crown seemed to have little regard for the legal protection of Maori freehold land, she said.

"The irony is we're not allowed to disinherit our heirs but the Crown is allowed to disinherit our heirs. This is protection of the land for future generations."

Of six routes considered for the expressway, the current option affected the smallest amount of Maori and waahi tapu (culturally significant) land, Parker said.

On Friday, the Maori Land Court upheld Grace's application for her block to become a Maori reserve, which should protect it from expressway bulldozers.

It is yet to be seen whether that decision will stand up against the Environment Court ruling of Judge Craig Thompson and Environment Commissioners Kevin Prime and David Kernohan.

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- The Dominion Post

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