Waikato River bed appeal rejected

Last updated 15:36 29/08/2014

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An appeal by Maori landowners to the highest court in the land over ownership of parts of the Waikato River bed has been knocked back. 

The Crown and Mighty River Power were respondents to the appeal.

The case concerned a large block of land at Pouakani, near Mangakino alongside the Waikato River. In the 1880s, the then Maori owners of Pouakani applied to the Native Land Court to have titles created, with much of the land vested in the Crown between then and 1899.

Descendants of Ngati Wairangi, Ngati Moe, Ngati Korotuohu, Ngati Ha, Ngati Hinekahu and Ngati Rakau hapu argued their ancestors would never have agreed if it had been explained to them that the Crown would own the riverbed to the halfway point in the river, as was assumed under English common law.

The river was a vital part of their identity and way of life they argued and the crown had taken advantage of them.

But in a judgement released today the Supreme court dismissed the claim that the riverbed land was held in trust on their behalf.

"'The appellants cannot prove what their ancestors thought as to the ownership of the river and, in particular, whether they believed that they had rights which would survive the sale of the riparian land,'' the judgement noted.

''Nor can they prove what the Crown  agents thought. They therefore cannot prove that the Crown agents took advantage of the vendors.''

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