A High Court hearing is underway into a dispute over whether a $102 million dollar pipeline could be built on cultural land in Tauranga.

The Tauranga City Council is looking to build the Southern Pipeline which would carry human and industrial waste from the city's southern suburb.

But Matapihi land owners claim the council couldn't use the road because they didn't own it.

A lawyer for Matapihi Trustees at the High Court in Hamilton this morning argued a council "paper road" - or route set aside for potential roading - has been used by tangata whenua for hundreds of years to access fishing and other resources.

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The trustees claim the paper road was not approprate for a pipeline route due to several issues:

- According to Public Land Act, is it the Crown's Land to build a road on top of?
- Confiscated land is set to be returned to Ngai Te Rangi. Was this land a part of that?
- The road was used significantly by tangata whenua
- Trees were cut down before trustees were advised - though compensation of $10,000 for each tree had been made.

A Land Information New Zealand witness has been called to interpret maps showing the proposed pipeline route.