Grace Lands Saved?

patricia graceMaori novelist’s battle to save family land continues

By Alan Tristram

Although novelist Patricia Grace has won a Maori Land Court battle to keep her ancestral lands in Waikanae from the Kapiti Expressway, Ms Grace still faces a hearing in the Environment Court in Wellington tomorrow to decide the issue.

Two days ago the Maori Land Court ruled in favour of the small block of ancestral Waikanae land seized for the expressway to be set aside as a Maori reservation.

Bu the NZ Transport Agency, which has started building the McKays to Peka Peka section of the Expressway, says it will 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.

The Environment Court will hear Ms Grace’s objection to the taking of part of  her land for the Expressway.

In the Maori Land Court case, Chief Judge Wilson Isaac granted Grace’s application and recommended her 5770 square metres of land in Te Moana Rd 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.’

Waikanae River near the land belonging to Patricia Graces
Waikanae River near the land belonging to Patricia Grace

The Transport Agency had wanted to take 983 square metres of the block for the expressway.

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

“This is one of the vestigial blocks of Wi Parata’s land remaining in the ownership of his descendants,” Judge Isaac said.

“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.”

His decision and recommendation now goes to the chief executive of Te Puni Kokiri before the reservation is confirmed and gazetted.

Grace was pleased with the decision.

She told the Dompost: “It is very good news. I think our case was very well put. It [the recommendation] makes the land ‘inalienable’, even to the Crown.”

Her lawyer, Leo Watson, says it justifies 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.’

Ms  Grace lodged a separate objection with the Environment Court over the seizure.

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.’