18 Feb 2014

Family sees compo as only option

9:26 am on 18 February 2014

A family disputing the return of whenua to iwi is pursuing compensation, arguing in the High Court at Wellington that land set aside for a Treaty of Waitangi settlement should be returned to them.

Tim Fairhall

Tim Fairhall Photo: RNZ

The court is hearing a dispute about the Public Works Act, and how it was used to create a military airfield at the top of the South Island.

The case concerns a portion of land at Blenheim's Woodbourne Airbase, which was taken from the Fairhall family in 1947 and is being offered to three iwi as part of Te Tau Ihu treaty claims. The whenua [land] would be leased back to the Crown.

In court, the Crown said the decision to allow the tribes to buy the land was political, so the court should not intervene.

But family spokesperson Tim Fairhall says the land was put into a settlement package without their knowledge, and he and his relatives want to preserve their rights because it is valuable land.

Mr Fairhall says he accepts they will never get the land back, and that the compensation route appears to be the only avenue left open.

The family has no axe to grind with any of the iwi who have been offered the land, he says.

The court reserved its decision.