Lake Horowhenua Trespass Prosecution “Disturbingly Medieval” Says Maori Owner
In New Zealand, this week’s Court of Appeal decision quashing the acquittal of an owner charged with trespassing on his own land is disturbingly medieval, according to the owner who will now be retried for the same offence thrown out by a district court judge last May.
Phil Taueki says he is not joking when he cites Magna Carta harking back to ancient times when the Crown could seize control of ancestral lands and imprison owners who refused to leave. Magna Carta became NZ law in 1989.
He says the original police prosecutor admitted there was no case to answer but he was under political pressure to proceed with this prosecution.
When this charge was dismissed, that should have been the end of it, he says.
But Crown Law appealed his acquittal even though there was no compelling new evidence or suggestion of a tainted acquittal.
It is disconcerting that Crown Law has hijacked this criminal case to evict owners from their own property, he says.
“There is even a statue of the man who stole our land in the grounds of Parliament”, Mr Taueki says.
“Anybody else who claimed there was an agreement would be laughed out of court if they could not produce a copy of that agreement,” he says. “But not Crown Law”.
Nevertheless in the High Court, Justice Ellis accepted there was an agreement and therefore the public had more rights than the owners on their own land.
Lake Horowhenua and the surrounding ancestral land has belonged to Mr Taueki and other members of his iwi since a certificate of title was issued in 1899.
Despite private ownership, within a few years Parliament had passed a law letting the public use the lake free of charge and placing it under the control of a Domain Board appointed by the Minister of Conservation.
In 1906, MP Tame Parata had called for the repeal of legislation passed without the approval of the owners.
Prior to Mr Taueki’s arrest, this Board banned all owners from entering their own buildings so that members of the local rowing club could occupy buildings the Board neither owns nor leases.
The Minister for Maori Development conceded two years ago that these arrangements would not be put in place today.
However Parliament has shown no inclination to repeal legislation that Mr Taueki describes as ‘theft by statute’.
For information on the history of Lake Horowhenua open or download the following pdf file:
Photo Credit: Wikimedia