9 Apr 2014

Land ruling sets precedent - lawyer

3:23 pm on 9 April 2014

An Environment Court decision preventing land being taken for a road sets a precedent for Maori land to be protected, the lawyer for the woman who took the case says.

Patricia Grace.

Patricia Grace. Photo: RNZ / Leigh McLachlan

The court ruled in favour of author Patricia Grace in her fight against the Transport Agency taking her ancestral land north of Wellington for a major new road.

The agency is trying to acquire a 980 square metre section of Ms Grace's land in Waikanae under the Public Works Act for the construction of the Kapiti Expressway.

The court has ruled that moves to take her land should stop.

In its judgement, it said it would not be fair to compulsorily take the land, particularly when an alternate route or method is available for the expressway.

It established a minor realignment of the highway would mean the road would avoid her land, and the local Maori cemetery.

Ms Grace inherited the Maori land. It belonged to her great-great grandfather Wi Parata, who was a Maori leader and donated large sections of land to Waikanae.

The Maori Land Court recently recommended that the land be given special Maori reservation status, which would make it inalienable, or unable to be taken.

Ms Grace's lawyer, Leo Watson, says there is now a clear judicial authority that, where land has been deemed to have cultural significance for Maori, it cannot be taken by the Crown for public works.

But he says the percentage of land that would apply to is not very large, because Maori land is scarce.

Mr Watson says the Transport Agency never discussed alternatives with Ms Grace who, he says, is delighted with the decision.

The agency says it needs time to review the decision before it makes any comment.