Report by Anne Hunt
Hot on the heels of the Maori water rights claim, the Supreme Court will be considering another contentious property rights issue; this time the right of owners to protect their own property.
Such is the significance of this case that Law Professor Dr Gerard McCoy QC SC, who is currently on a retainer to the Hong Kong government will be flying back to New Zealand to argue this case.
The Crown has contended that the owners of the privately-owned Lake Horowhenua have no more rights than any member of the public who wants to use the lake on their property. The trial Judge and Court of Appeal each overlooked and therefore gave no weight to recognition by Parliament that this place has always been owned by the local iwi.
Nobody can reach Lake Horowhenua without crossing land that has belonged to Mua-Upoko since 1893. This title also includes the bed of the lake, where the bodies of warriors slain in battle with Te Rauparaha’s Ngati Toa lie.
Since Parliament placed control of the lake in the hands of a Government-appointed Domain Board, the once-pristine waters have deteriorated to the extent that the lake is now rated one of the ten worst lakes in the country. NIWA scientist Max Gibbs reported last year that the water is so toxic that a mouthful could kill a child.
Dr McCoy’s submission will be filed with the Supreme Court on Friday.