29 Oct 2010

Challenge over confiscated Waitara land struck out

8:06 pm on 29 October 2010

The High Court has struck out damages claims by 74 leaseholders on contested land in Waitara which is earmarked for return to local Maori.

It is the leaseholders' third loss, but their lawyer Dennis King says the fight may continue.

The Pekapeka block was confiscated during the Taranaki Wars in the 1860s and is administered by New Plymouth District Council.

Through the 1990s, the council wanted to allow leaseholders to buy freehold title, but six years ago it chose instead to sell to the Crown to help settle Te Atiawa's Treaty of Waitangi claim.

In a test case, one resident said he bought and improved a leasehold section on the expectation of freehold title and suffered a loss when that didn't eventuate.

However, Justice Mallon struck out the claim, and 73 attached cases.

The district council says latest decision also strikes out all remaining claims.

This month the Crown signed a deal to buy about two-thirds of the land, with the rest remaining as council facilities, parks and reserves.