Patricia Grace Overjoyed

patricia grace 2Maori novelist thrilled by Court victories — but worried about possible appeal

By Alan Tristram

Author Patricia Grace is thrilled with her latest victory in the battle to save her family land from the Kapiti Expressway, but concerned about a possible appeal by the NZ Transport Agency.

The Environment Curt ruled yesterday against Transport Agency attempts to compulsorily take part of Ms Grace’s family land near the Waikanae River.

Paricia Grace told KIN: “We’re overjoyed with the result, though there will probably be an appeal which would mean going to the High Court.

“The decision respects the oral traditions handed down to the family about the ancestral significance of the land, and the historical and cultural importance,” she says.

“It recognises the generosity of our ancestor Wiremu Parata in his donation of land to the Waikanae community and for public works, and our call therefore, that ‘enough is enough’ as far as this family is concerned.”

Second court victory

Ms Grace won her second Court battle to keep her land from being seized for the Expressway in the Environment Court yesterday. The Court said moves to take her land should stop.

She had  lodged an objection with the Court following her Maori Land Court victory.

In the Maori Land Court, the Judge also ruled in favour of saving the small block of land from seizure. The Judge ordered that the land be set aside as a Maori reservation.

The Transport Agency acquired the 980-square-metre section of Ms Grace’s land under the Public Works Act for the construction of the MacKays to Peka Peka se3ction of the Kapiti Expressway.

‘Not fair to compulsorily take the land’

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

Ms Grace inherited the Maori land, which once  belonged to her great-great grandfather Wi Parata, the Maori leader who donated large sections of land for the Waikanae communty.

And in the Maori Land Court, Chief Judge Wilson Isaac granted Grace’s application and recommended her 5770sq m of land in Te Moana Rd, Waikanae, be “set apart as a Maori reservation for the benefits of the descendants of Wiremu Parata Te Kakakura … as a place of cultural and historic significance and as a waahi tapu site”

While the Transport Agency did not oppose Ms Grace’s right to declare the rest of the land a reserve, it wanted its portion excluded to build the road.

Continual Maori ownership

But Judge Isaac said.”This is one of the vestigial blocks of Wi Parata’s land remaining in the ownership of his descendants. This land has been in continual Maori ownership and control since before 1840.

“It has special significance not only for the descendants of Wi Parata but also for Te Atiawa ki Whakarongotai, and has been protected through the generations to the present time. This protection should continue into the future.”

Ms Grace commented this way on the Maori Land decision: “It is very good news. I think our case was very well put. It [the recommendation] makes the land ‘inalienable’, even to the Crown.”

Long struggle vindicated

Her lawyer, Leo Watson, said it vindicated her “long struggle to protect her ancestral land, which was a generous gesture to expend the benefit of a Maori reservation to the wider whanau.”

NZTA, which has started building the McKays to Peka Peka section of the Expressway, said at the time that it would not be able to comment on whether the Maori Land Court’s recommendation meant Grace’s land would be avoided until after the Environment Court hearing in Wellington.

More than 30 top writers, academics and Maori leaders signed an open letter to Prime Minister John Key and Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee as a Waitangi Day protest urging the Government not “to literally bulldoze a road through the land.”