Wakatu appeal bid rejected

Wakatu Incorporation's application to take an appeal of its failed High Court bid direct to the Supreme Court has been declined.

The Nelson-based organisation lodged an appeal after the High Court's decision was released in June, asking for it to be heard in the Supreme Court.

A direct appeal is permitted by the Supreme Court Act 2003, only if the Supreme Court gives leave on the basis that there are ''exceptional circumstances that justify taking the proposed appeal directly to the Supreme Court''.

Wakatu Incorporation says the Crown failed to implement reserves of one-tenth of the land acquired for the New Zealand Company settlement in the 1840s, which were promised to Maori vendors in Nelson, Motueka and Golden Bay.

But the High Court found in June that it had no legal standing to pursue a case for claimed breaches of fiduciary duty, trust and good faith in its dealings with the Maori vendors.

Wakatu Incorporation said the ''exceptional circumstances'' that should have given it leave to appeal directly to the Supreme Court were that the court had given the applicants in another similar case, Paki v Attorney-General, leave to appeal.

The Supreme Court will hear from Paki v Attorney-General in February, about whether the Crown owed the former Maori owners of land along the Waikato River a fiduciary duty and, if so, whether it was breached and what remedies should follow.

Wakatu Incorporation said the grounds on which the court was to hear further arguments in that case were ''substantially the same'' as those it wished to raise, but the Supreme Court said in a ruling released today that Paki v Attorney-General dealt with claims arising out of Crown acquisitions between 1887 and 1899, ''in quite different circumstances''.

''The claims made by Wakatu are more extensive and raise a number of issues which do not overlap with those in ifPakinf. Although there is superficial similarity in respect of the claims based on equitable obligations said to be owed by the Crown to Maori owners of land, they arise in very different contexts. There is insufficient commonality between the claims to warrant depriving the court of the benefit of consideration of the applicants' claim by the Court of Appeal,'' it said.

The ruling said Wakatu Incorporation could seek intervener status discreet matters of law common to both claims arose in the Paki v Attorney-General appeal.

Wakatu Incorporation chairman Paul Morgan said while he was ''obviously disappointed'' the appeal wouldn't go directly to the Supreme Court, it wasn't the end of the road.

''The Court of Appeal will consider this matter - it's just at a lower level. It's okay. It's a step by step process.''